Job-seeking seafarers targeted by fraudulent agencies

September 23, 2020
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Two groups of seafarers from different regions reported very similar issues to ISWAN around the same time which had damaged their careers at sea. They named a particular manning agent and unregistered maritime institute which were involved in unethical money-making practices at the expense of job-seeking seafarers.

Three seafarers in the eastern Uttar Pradesh area had completed their pre-sea training with a non-Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) approved maritime training institute. They had been asked to pay amounts ranging from 1.5-2 lakhs (approximately £1,600-2,100) in cash to the institute in return for finding them a job. Keen to work on a good ship, the seafarers took out loans from different sources in order to make the payments*.

A fraudulent manning agent subsequently issued the seafarers with contract letters and they were sent to join a ship in Iran. However, much to the seafarers’ concern, the local Iranian agent took them to a ship that was unseaworthy and in bad condition. It also had a different name to the ship mentioned in their contracts.

The seafarers told the Iranian agent that they did not want to join a ship where there could be problems with safety and security and a serious hazard to life and property. When they refused to join the ship, they were mistreated by the agent who did not provide them with food and other essentials. When they later asked to be repatriated, the Iranian agent refused and left them stranded in Iran.

The seafarers contacted their families who appealed to the training institute, but it ruled out providing any support. The families managed to raise the cost of flights home for the seafarers but they all still lost their hard-earned money because of this fraud.

When they returned home, the seafarers contacted ISWAN’s free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp, which provided them with guidance on how to move on with their lives. ISWAN’s Regional Programme in India also forwarded the seafarers’ complaint to the DGS in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, two other seafarers from Tamil Nadu were facing a similar problem but they were still stranded in Iran. They told ISWAN India that they had used the same manning agent and had refused to join the ship in Iran as it posed a serious danger to their lives.

ISWAN India and The Mission to Seafarers approached the DGS and asked for urgent intervention. The DGS immediately took action and followed up with the manning agency, which arranged safe repatriation of the seafarers within 48 hours of the request being submitted. One of the seafarers, Vikrant, tells his story in the video below.

If you are a seafarer or family member of a seafarer and need assistance or support, you can contact our free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp, at any time – all our contact details can be found at We will refer you to a member of our Regional Programme team if there is someone in your region who can help.

*In countries which have ratified the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, crewing agencies must not charge for finding seafarers work. In India, seafarers should only complete their pre-sea training through DGS-approved training institutes and join shipping through registered crewing agencies (the list can be found here). We are running a campaign to discourage seafarers from signing up with unregistered crewing agencies and raise awareness of the risks of doing so. You can find tips on how to identify a fraudulent crewing agent or agency here.

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