ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Fraudulent crewing agencies are a big problem in India. Many seafarers are attracted to non-government approved agencies by job offers but are illegally charged placement fees and often find themselves with problems like contract issues, poor conditions on board and unpaid wages. Indian seafarers experiencing such problems have been getting in touch with our confidential helpline, SeafarerHelp, for assistance.
One such group of three Indian seafarers had been illegally charged the equivalent of over US $5,000 each by an unregistered crewing agency, which promised to find them jobs on a large vessel in Malaysia. The agency did not hold a Recruitment and Placement Services Licence (RPSL) but convinced the seafarers that its RPSL registration was being processed.
An employment agreement between the seafarers and the agency was made in Mumbai, but when the seafarers arrived in Malaysia, there was no job for them. The Malaysian agent told them that the agency in Mumbai had not paid their joining fees and demanded more money from them. The seafarers were told that if they wanted to return to India, they would have to purchase their own tickets.
The seafarers were now staying at a local hotel paid for by their India-based agent while they tried to sort out the problem. They were all very stressed and throughout this period of uncertainty, SeafarerHelp was constantly in touch with them, providing emotional support and guidance. The team explained to the seafarers that it is illegal for crewing agencies to charge placement fees. SeafarerHelp worked on this case with ISWAN’s Regional Representative in India, who contacted the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) office regarding the incident and advised the seafarers to file a complaint.
A few weeks later, the seafarers told SeafarerHelp that the fraudulent agent in India had been caught red-handed. He had been placed in jail and was due to answer for his actions in court. They reported that he had allegedly made over US $47,000 in profit from charging more than 25 other seafarers. The seafarers had received support from local media and unions, and they eventually decided not to go back to India because they were going to try to arrange work through agents in Malaysia. They were extremely grateful to the SeafarerHelp team for their support, writing: ‘HUGE HUGE HUGE thanks for helping us in our trouble time’.
If you are an Indian seafarer looking for work, make sure you only sign up with crewing agencies which have registered with the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS). You can find a full list on the DGS website here. You can also contact SeafarerHelp any time for assistance and support – you can find contact details at seafarerhelp.org.
We are running a campaign to discourage Indian seafarers from signing up with non-RPSL crewing agencies. Find out more about the campaign here.