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SHAH ALAM: Upcoming amendments to the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 will mean better welfare and protection for seafarers, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The Bill was to be debated next month and the Dewan Rakyat would give its full support to the new provisions, he said.

He was speaking at a press conference after opening the Malaysian Maritime Academy’s 114th convocation ceremony to mark the graduation of 254 cadets and 87 ratings.

The ministry had tabled the amendments for first reading at the last Parliament session.

These will put into effect new provisions in line with the ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 by Malaysia.

One is raising the minimum age for seafarers, from 14 to 16, so that they will be better able to withstand the workload and psychological pressures of life at sea.

Another sets the minimum daily rest period at 10 hours while among others is mandatory financial security or insurance, as well as guaranteed right of repatriation.

Liow said a target was to have 90% of the country’s ships manned by Malaysian seafarers.

He said seafarers would be encouraged to serve in international shipping lines for experience before returning to serve the country.

“At present, we have about 12,000 Malaysian seafarers and we will continue to train more.

“It is a very important sector, with high salaries and good employability, and Malaysia can play an important role in this industry,” he said.

He said the ministry was focused on addressing industry issues and challenges faced by seafarers through the Malaysian National Shipping Master Plan 2020, which was being finalised.

IKMAL is optimistic to be able to go full ahead with its primary objective of securing and enhancing the welfare of Seagoing and Shore-Based Officers, after the upcoming amendments to the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 bill is passed in Parliament.