Seafarers duped by agents; racket thriving in Kerala

Arun from Vadakara in Kozhikode, Kerala, has given Rs four lakh to become a seaman. But this poor young man’s ambition of becoming a seaman lasted just three months when he was signed off from the cargo ship that he was working.

All his money is lost with only expectations remaining. Arun is a victim of the alleged racket that recruits people for merchant navy. As like Arun, there are hundreds who lost their money to some fake recruiters who have promised them lucrative jobs in leading shipping companies.

Having lost money and with no job, some of the young people have landed up in fishing vessels in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Some have returned to their native places and doing other jobs.

Elaborating on his plight, Arun shared his bitter experiences with “After completing shipping course, I approached an agency in Thiruvanathapuram (which was known through friends) for a job. They had promised me lucrative pay in a reputable company. For this, the agent took Rs four lakh as their fees.”

“It was only when I went to join the ship that I knew that I was cheated. The ship on which I was given job was not the one that was offered to me at the time of giving money to the agency,” he said.

Noting that his days in the ship was harrowing, Arun said that he was not given proper place to rest, sleep nor even food and even water. Moreover, he said that he had to do duty for 10, 12 and even 14 hours without any rest. At the time of recruitment, the agency had said that there will be only eight hours of work and no extra duty, he added.    

“Though my contract was for nine months, they just asked me to leave in three months. I was signed off from the ship without telling me the reason. I was not even given three month’s salary,” he said.  

Arun said that the agency in Thiruvananthapuram was only a sub agent, which he realised later. There are strict rules that Recruitment and Placement Services License holders can only recruit personnel for shipping vessels. But the agent in the Thiruvananthapuram did not have this license and it was just a sub agent of some company based in Mumbai.

He also mentioned that some of the people like him whom he had met in Mumbai also had the same experience. “All of them have been fooled by these fraud agencies. With no hope remaining, some even left for Malayasia sand Sri Lanka to work in fishing vessels,” he said.

 Stating that a lot of fraud agencies were duping the youngsters, All Kerala Seamen’s Association secretary Salim alleged that it was a racket involving crores of rupees. “After taking lakhs of rupees from the youngsters, they are cheated. They are not given good salary and sometimes even paid nothing. These people have to toil at the hands of the shipping companies after paying a huge amount. Moreover, they are also not given the basic facilities in the ship whether they work. Most of them are not given proper food, drinking water and are made to work 10 to 14 hours of duty,” he said.

He noted that it was not just a single agency or a group of agencies but a big racket was behind this.  

On the complaint raised by Arun against an agency in Thiruvananthapuram, Salim said that the Shipping Ministry had already taken initiative on the complaint given to the Shipping Ministry by the Association. “The DG shipping has now asked the parent agency to which the agency in Thiruvananthapuram is said to be associated, to furnish details about the transaction of Rs four lakh in respect of Arun and also regarding the non-payment of three months of salary.”  

Stating that the Association will fight till the government takes stern action against all fraud agencies, Salim said that there are provisions in the Merchant Shipping Act that says that no money should be taken for recruiting anyone to any merchant vessel. All these are being violated here, he said.  

No doubt Merchant Navy is one of the most sought after jobs. But most of those who wish to enter the shipping industry just land up with some fraud agency. The international Seafarers Association has already given a call to all aspirants not to fall prey to such rackets. It has been pointed out that lots of young people join the shipping industry through unregistered agents and land up in trouble.

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