Crew change on ships at Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram has been roiled by efforts of a local steamer agent to block rivals from undertaking staff swap.

Dowins Resources Pvt Ltd, a local steamer agent, has formed an association – Minor Ports Traditional Steamer Agents Association – with the aim of creating a monopoly over crew change business at Vizhinjam.

Vizhinjam emerged on the world crew change map in July as embattled ship owners and managers sought newer locations for swap staff on ships after travel restrictions imposed by nations to deal with the spread of coronavirus disrupted this key activity globally since March.

Since opening-up for crew change, Vizhinjam has seen some 350 crew being rotated from 26 ships, of which 25 were carried out by Dowins Resources and One by Capital Holdings.

Dowins Resources and Capital Holdings had secured interim orders from the Kerala High Court to undertake crew change after the Customs Department denied them permission to carry out this work at Vizhinjam.

On Saturday, Dowins Resources tried its best to stall Mumbai-based Atlantic Global Shipping Pvt Ltd from carrying out crew change on ‘STI Precision’, an oil tanker owned by the New York Stock Exchange listed Scorpio Tankers Inc, one of the world’s biggest tanker shipping companies.

Atlantic Global Shipping had also secured an interim order from the Kerala High Court to carry out crew change that included sign off of two Croatian nationals. It faced “delays” and “harassment” which it blamed on Dowins Resources.

E-mail threat

The association even sent a threatening e-mail asking Atlantic Global Shipping to drop its plan to carry out crew change on ‘STI Precision’ and instead appoint one of its members as local agent.

“Our organisation has taken a decision not to entertain any newcomers/ strangers from any other port to work as a steamer agent in Vizhinjam minor port,” the Minor Ports’ Traditional Steamer Agents’ Association wrote in a September 11 e-mail to Atlantic Global Shipping.

“The same was informed to the Kerala State Maritime Board, Customs and all concerned authorities. The Port Department had already informed this to your Cochin office. Ignoring this, if you are again trying to do the clearance directly through your Cochin (office), we will be forced to obstruct the clearance of the crew and the vessel will be held up for hours,” the association, which comprises only Dowins Resources, wrote in the e-mail.

“We are not threatening you, but we are just conveying our member’s grievance, (and) also to avoid any loss and damage for the owners,” the e-mail said, adding that the association had made crew change operations at Vizhinjam a success after taking much risk, hardship and money.

The Customs, Immigration and port authorities had raised objections to granting permission for crew change at Vizhinjam anchorage and the association said its members had obtained interim orders from the Kerala High Court to carry out this task.

A separate order was also obtained from the court to undertake crew change of foreign nationals at Vizhinjam, the e-mail said.

Despite the threat, Atlantic Global Shipping said it went ahead and did the crew change, though the ship was held up for a few hours before it could set sail.

“How can an association say that only its members can work in Vizhinjam for crew change and nobody else. What is the authenticity and locus standi of this association,” said an official with Atlantic Global Shipping.

Source:- The Hindu Business Line