Shortage of marine pilots is likely to impact ship movements in major ports, unless the Shipping Ministry steps up efforts to strengthen the marine services commensurate with the growth in ports.
Poaching of pilots by foreign as well as private ports offering phenomenal hike in remuneration is said to be the reason for the shortage. Highly placed sources in the shipping sector told BusinessLine that ports of Kuwait had recently conducted a recruitment drive in Mumbai and taken seven pilots providing them with hefty salaries.
Pilots shortage assumes greater significance for ship movements within the port waters especially in the wake of increased ship calls in major ports. With additional infrastructure being added to the port by way of terminals, JK Thomas, President, Nautical India SW Branch, said attention should be paid to supplement the pilot strength to handle additional traffic.
The entry and exit from ports is the most dangerous leg of sea voyage, he said citing the some of the marine accidents in Indian ports in recent years.
In developed countries, according to Thomas, marine pilots are among the highest paid professionals. But government-owned major ports are reluctant to offer them wages prevailing in the market.
The result: ports are struggling to find enough pilots and more importantly, retain their services. Many ports tried to overcome this situation through recruitment on contract basis offering better salaries. But this was only a temporary solution, as these pilots could leave the job at any time, he said.
With more pilots on contract, there is a shortage of officers to fill up the post of Dock Masters, Harbour Masters and Deputy Conservators in major ports, he added.
Highlighting the case of Kochi Port, informed sources pointed out that the ship movements have increased by 12.5 per cent from 7.6 per cent in the past one year and this has put considerable pressure on existing pilots. Increased cruise traffic has also contributed to the surge in ship movements.
The situation is set to grow further with the completion of BPCL-Kochi Refinery expansion, commissioning of LPG terminal, completion of the LNG pipeline, connectivity and the continued growth of containers at Vallarpadam terminal.
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Source: The Hindu Business Line