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India: Rough sailing for seafarers as software glitch affects immigration clearance

Glitches in a software developed by government agencies — to check unauthorised placement agents from duping hapless seafarers — has resulted in denial of immigration clearance to genuine seafarers in Mumbai and Chennai.

This move by immigration officers is creating unnecessary panic among genuine seafarers, says India’s maritime administration.

The Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has asked the immigration authorities not to take “adverse action” against genuine seafarers on the basis of the eMigrate software, which has been running on a pilot basis for three months from September 1.

The software captures the data of seafarers engaged by local fleet owners on Indian flag ships — through recruitment agents on foreign flag and Indian flag ships, and those hired directly by global fleet owners on foreign flag ships.

The data is filed in eMigrate by the manning agent, the Indian ship owner or the senior officer before the expected date of departure.

The data is then transmitted online by the eMigrate system to the Bureau of Immigration. When a seafarer reports at the immigration checkpoint and swipes his passport, his data is flashed on the immigration desk and he is allowed to pass through once cleared.

Checkpoint process

With this system, only seafarers recruited by Indian ship owners, authorised recruitment and placement agencies and senior officers (master or chief engineer) hired directly by foreign ship owners are allowed to pass through the immigration checkpoints.

Seafarers recruited by unauthorised placement agencies and seafarers (other than senior officers) recruited directly by foreign shipowners are prevented from passing through the checkpoints.

“The Directorate is receiving complaints about denial of immigration clearance to genuine seafarers at Chennai and Mumbai solely because of non-transmission of data from e-eMigrate, which is still running on a pilot basis,” Subhash Barguzer, Deputy Director General of Shipping (Crew) at the DGS wrote in a September 27 communication to the Commissioner (Immigration) in New Delhi.

Far from ready

The software is suffering from a number of glitches and is far from ready for use, he wrote.

“It was mutually agreed with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration that seafarers going on a valid recruitment and placement service letterhead will not be stopped by immigration during the trial period of the software.”

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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