How we were tricked into slavery on Iranian ships— -Indian seafarers
“They target seafarers for work without salary. It’s all a big trap,” said Ashkay Kumar, a 24-year-old deck cadet from Delhi who was among 26 Indian men interviewed about their experience with Iranian shipping. “They forced us to work like slaves.”
When a job recruitment agent in India handed Ashwani Pandit a plane ticket and visa for Iran early last year, he panicked.
When he found out at the last minute that he had been tricked, Pandit said, he was denied a refund and had little choice but to travel to Iran, where he toiled aboard a small cargo boat for seven months transporting urea and iron to Iraq.
“My friends working on vessels in Iran warned me companies there don’t pay salaries,” he said. “The same thing happened to me.”
Pandit ultimately left Iran empty-handed in August 2020. His employer, Dashti Marine Co., arranged his exit visa on the condition he signs a contract stating he did not require payment for his work.
Babak Dashti, the owner of Dashti Marine, declined to comment.
Indians represent a significant share of the seafarers employed by Iranian companies, in part because India is a major source of maritime labor worldwide.
The Indian labor is especially appealing for Iranian companies because U.S. sanctions on Iran have made it difficult to hire workers from many other counties, said Andy Bowerman, regional director for the Middle East and South Asia at the Mission to Seafarers, a charity.
Moreover, he said, “there are a lot of desperate people who will take a contract that they may or may not know has some risk to it.”
The pipeline for these migrant workers comprises recruitment agents in both India and Iran in addition to Iranian shipping firms, seafarers said.
Amitabh Kumar, the Indian government’s Director General of shipping, said that most of these seafarers appear to have traveled abroad as “undocumented recruitments” and that it is difficult to provide an exact number of men involved.
Neither Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization nor the Shipping Association of Iran responded to requests for comment.
Almost all the seafarers interviewed said they were denied adequate food and suffered regular attacks of hunger and subsequent weight loss.
“I faced a problem with food. I asked for food from ships nearby if I didn’t have lunch.
Some seafarers reported they were put to work aboard Iranian-flagged vessels that transport narcotics.
Anand Maity, 28, from Kolkata, for instance, said he had been working in the kitchen of a tugboat sailing from Djibouti to Iran and was unaware that drugs were on board before a stash of heroin was discovered two years ago by the Iranian coast guard.
Several men recalled getting caught up in other types of illicit commerce.
Jameel Akhtar, 29, from Mumbai, was among a number of seafarers who told of working on vessels smuggling fuel and other Iranian goods covered by U.S. sanctions.
After his tanker was caught transporting Iranian fuel in late 2020, Akhtar said, it was detained by authorities from the United Arab Emirates and remained anchored in port for months.
In July, four people wearing black masks and goggles and brandishing guns boarded the ship, tied the crew members’ hands behind their backs and threatened to shoot anybody who moved, he recalled.
An official report on the incident, published by investigators from the maritime administration of Dominica, the Caribbean country where the vessel was flagged, said Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was likely responsible.
Seafarers interviewed in India said they ultimately returned home with little if any money to show for their work, as well as traumatized by their experience with Iranian shipping companies, but they remained unwilling to give up their dreams of working at sea.
Pandit is searching for a job but says he will never return to Iran. “The shipping companies are total frauds,” he said.
Traffic gridlock returns to Apapa port as Federal government closes Total bridge for maintainance works
“Given the impact the closure will have on Port users, the Authority in partnership with LASTMA, Police, FRSC, and the Nigerian Navy have worked out alternative routes and are on the ground to manage the traffic situation in the affected areas.
“The Authority wishes to solicit the understanding and cooperation of all stakeholders as we continue to support measures to mitigate the temporary disruptions, the NPA pleaded.
NIMASA collaborates with NCC to regulate submarine cable operation for enhanced navigational safety on Nigerian waters
The eyewitness reporter
Apparently alarmed by the indiscriminate laying of communication cables and pipelines underneath the Nigerian waters by telecommunications operators and other allied professionals which has the potential of harming the safe navigation of ships, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA) has engaged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a strategic discussion to forge a formidable synergy with other relevant stakeholders with a view to developing a regulatory framework to provide operational guidelines for submarine Cable and Pipeline Operators in Nigeria.
Officials of both organs of Government in Lagos reached this agreement at a pre Audit meeting on submarine cable regulation.
The Director General of NIMASA Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who chaired the meeting, which also had the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) Mr. Dasuki Arabi in attendance, noted that the Agency is committed to the Ease of Doing Business while implementing International Conventions which Nigeria has ratified and domesticated.
He noted that with Nigeria now a destination for global communication players, the time has come to prevent unregulated underwater cable laying, which might become hazardous to shipping.
According to him, “It is worthy to note that marine cable laying has been ongoing for over two decades in Nigerian waters.
“Our focus is to ensure the safety of navigation of shipping in Nigerian waters with all these underwater cables being laid.
“NIMASA is actually developing the guidelines to regulate submarine cable operators in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS; which we have ratified and NIMASA is the Agency of Government in Nigeria responsible for its implementation.
“Collaboration is a key component of ease of doing business in the best interest of the country and we will work closely with the NCC to achieve this”.
On his part, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Efosa Idehen, noted that the stakeholders’ dialogue strategy adopted by NIMASA in developing the guidelines would ensure a win-win situation, urging NIMASA management to include the Ministry of Justice, a request NIMASA DG immediately granted.
Also speaking at the meeting was the Director General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms Mr. Dasuki Arabi, who commended NIMASA and NCC for adopting effective Inter-Agency collaboration to avert a potential challenge for the country in the future.
NIMASA had notified submarine and cable operators in Nigeria of a soon-to-be-implemented regulatory guideline for submarine cables and pipelines in Nigeria, in line with the provisions of UNCLOS.
NIMASA and the NCC agreed to identify and resolve areas of likely regulatory overlaps, ensuring a regulatory framework based on consultation to engender the attainment of Nigeria’s digital economy transformation.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment and representatives of Submarine Cable operators in Nigeria were also at the meeting.
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