We celebrate the National Maritime Day on 5th April every year because on this day the first Indian ship belonging to Scindia steam Navigation Company sailed out from Mumbai to the UK. This company performed well for some years and many good officers emerged by serving it. It had to shut operations on account of mismanagement and lack of diversification, which was rather unfortunate. Subsequently, the Shipping Corporation of India was formed which is the present national carrier. I was fortunate to get selected to serve the SCI and learnt a lot while serving on board in their ships. The company has witnessed ups and downs in the matter of technical development and profitability. Let us all pray that the SCI remains a professionally managed company by sustaining good work culture by reducing wasteful expenditure.
India has a very long coast line but our water borne activity is not commensurately rich. This is partly because we did not have an able leader as the Shipping Minister and the DG Shipping and its allied offices failed to provide good governance. These offices must follow the spirit of entrepreneurship, act professionally and must shun bureaucracy and red tapism. Regular interaction must occur between the industry and DGS as no officer can claim to know everything right from MS Act to Inland Vessel’s Act and various technical matters pertaining to surveys and examinations. When I was working with the department, I often used to attend industrial surveys. I always made it a point to ask the technical officer (testing officer) in the company about procedures being adopted in various cases. I learnt a lot from them and used my education to certify the concerned equipment.
Examining and learning must go hand in hand which is sadly lacking today mostly in the matter pertaining to CIP ( Concentrated inspection program) for numerous marine colleges with no provision for enforcement of rules. It only is an act of passing the buck or shirking responsibility. You grant permission to open the colleges, increase the intake and then leave the rest to others, and that too, in improperly delegated manner. That is not the right manner in which a public office functions. Public office ideally works through properly framed and notified rules.
Regarding the Indian Maritime University ( IMU), the less said, the better. The LBS College which used to be vibrant will full strength of students with good flowers now looks dirty, dilapidated and doomed. Senior Capt; Alexander used to drive out students from the hostel to classes or library by 9 am. However, these days, you will be lucky to find the Principal at this hour present in his office.
A lot of progress has definitely been achieved, no doubt, and we must acknowledge it. However, the Indian Seafarers and Maritime Administrators are certainly capable of achieving much more. We can efficiently develop the Shipping industry and Ports and the disconnect between the two which is visible at present will cease to exist in the future.