THIS is apropos of the letter ‘Visa restrictions on Pakistani seamen’ (Aug 2) by Capt Ali Asghar Shah, General Secretary, Marine Academy Old Boys Association, who has raised a very valid, cogent, and genuine concern of the Pakistani seafarers in a very convincing manner.
The Pakistani seamen had been one of the major foreign exchange contributors in the national exchequer. There were times when the Pakistani flagships were touching almost all the seaports of the world, and the Pakistani seamen were the most sought seafarers in the shipping industry around the globe, because of their hard work, competency and discipline.
The Pakistani ship industry suffered an irreversible loss during the dark era of Gen Zia’s and the number of Pakistani flagships declined drastically. As a result, the Pakistani seamen who were in great demand were welcomed by foreign flagships on very attractive salary packages.
The unfortunate spread of terrorism and extremism had also closed the doors for talented Pakistani seamen. The vacuum created due to this was quickly filled by Indian, Bangladeshi, and many other Third World countries.
Our successive governments also remained a silent spectator to this loss of foreign exchange, and unemployment of young talent.
Many Pakistani mariners have reached the highest positions in the offices of the world leading shipping lines and many industrial and commercial organisations. Unfortunately in Pakistan the expertise of sea farers has not been fully utilised.
Pakistan’s shipbreaking industry was once at the top in the world. The vested interests of the people in command during the of Zia era deprived the nation of this industry to gain certain benefits.
The government of the day must come up with concrete steps to remove the unnecessary restrictions on Pakistani seafarers and revive the glory of not only the shipping industry of the country but of the shipbreaking industry also.
The status of the Pakistan Marine Academy, one of the finest institutions of the country, must be upgraded with graduates passing out from the Academy having security of job on ships.
The government must enter into agreements with various countries of the world, especially Muslim countries, to make sure that the graduates passing out from the Pakistan Marine Academy get jobs in the shipping lines of those countries. Cadets from brotherly countries be invited to join the Pakistan Marine Academy and avail themselves of the highest standards of marine education.