More unnecessary rules for expat workers

Vol 14, PW 2 (15 Jul 10) People & Policy

Offshore seismic companies are flabbergasted at strict new rules being drawn up by India’s ministry of home affairs that will hit foreign crew hard.

Under the proposed rules, expected to be enforced shortly, expatriates who leave India for more than 30 days and then want to return must get fresh security clearance from the ministry each time. This has grave implications for the seismic industry, as survey ship crews typically rotate once every five or six weeks, with foreign crew normally taking a five to six week break in their home countries.

Under the new rules, fresh security clearance from the ministry could take up to three or four weeks and hold up foreign crew from returning to India. “So the only way out is for seismic contractors to reduce their crew change cycles from five or six weeks to three and staying under the 30 day limit,” says an industry source.

“Everybody in the industry is completely shaken up.” Foreign crew members will get shorter breaks as a result but contractors are particularly worried about rising costs, as they will need to hire more personnel to manage the shorter crew change cycles.

“As it is we’re experiencing a rough patch because of the Gulf of Mexico (BP) oil spill,” complains a seismic contractor. “Rates are down and we don’t make as much money as the drillers anyway.

” Concerns about these new home ministry rules were raised on June 18 by participants at an ONGC seismic survey pre-bid in Mumbai for a tender to hire two survey ships in the coming 2010-11 seismic season. As usual, we are told, ONGC was not helpful.

“ONGC said it has raised the matter with the (oil) ministry,” says a participant, “but since it is a security concern it can’t do much and we’ll have to live with it.”