A group of sailors formed themselves into an association called Goa Portuguese Seamen's
Club in 1896, a hundred years ago. It became the foundation of seafarers' Struggle for
It is a long story of fight for
social justice, initially for jobs, then for better working conditions and now, for better
At present, there are more than 35,000 Indian seamen who draw on an average a monthly
salary of Rs. Thirty Thousand to Fifty Thousand on foreign flag ships and between
and Thirty Thousand on Indian ships; eat good food with a calorie content of over three
thousand daily on board including ice-cream, fresh milk and cheese and live comfortably
with family when ashore. There are many educational and other welfare facilities for them
too. All this is thanks to National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) which has fought
many battles for them.
It was in 1918 that the word union appeared in seamen's life. Two separate bodies viz.
Asian Seafarers' Union and Indian Seamen's Union comprising Deck and Engine Room
ratings were founded in 1918. They merged next year and the first strike by Indian seamen
on S.S. Kaiser-E-Hind of P & O took place. It was Khansaheb Mohamed Ebrahim Serang Who
fought against all odds to unite seamen to seek regular jobs the seamen's life was
miserable then. They had to carry their own bedding and utensils on voyage. Work - day was
of 24 hours and work very hard. The food was just enough for subsistence.
When the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926, came into force in 1927, the Indian Seamen's Union
registered itself. Its registration number was 7.
Later in 1932, it was Khansaheb Mohamed Ebrahim Serang who founded the present
National Union of Seafarers of India (then National Seamen's Union of India). It fought
initially for the right of employment, then for increase in wages and improvement of
working conditions. In 1964 Indian seamen secured two social security benefits, namely,
provident fund and gratuity. It was a singlehanded battle by Dr. Leo Barnes that won the
Indian seamen a life with dignity.
Once he plunged into union activity in 1961. he devoted his life for the cause of
seafarers. Dr. Barnes, who fights like a warrior is a skilled negotiator. In order to gain
a step or two , he compromises but never on principles! He is successful in making many
international agreements in favour of Indian and Asian seamen. Incidentally Dr. Barnes who
was once a sailor himself did his studies while doing union work. He specialises in
Mercantile marine law relating to seamen.
NUSI is perhaps the only Indian union which has worked on the principle of collective
barganing, settling all its disputes across the table at bipartite meetings.
The funding concept was introduced in 1973 under the ISF/ITF Understanding and the Total
Crew Concept was accepted in 1983 by Fair Practices Committee of ITF. These two
developments brought about sea change in the Indian seamen's life.
There are many welfare projects for Indian seamen initiated out of these funds.
For the last ten years, the union has been engaged in various welfare activities for
Seafarers and their families. More than eight major projects for the welfare of Indian
seamen in various parts of the country are on hand. They are mentioned elsewhere.
Now the union mainly helps seamen in facilitating their job requirements on a broader
front. It has joined hands with shipowners to acquire more jobs for Indian seamen from
International market. NUSI is the only union which runs educational and training institute
to prepare qualified and competent Indian seamen. The union not only fights for betterment
of wages and conditions but also prepares its members to accept the newer challenges
NUSI is a union with a difference.
Union of Seafarers of India
OFFICE : NUSI Bhavan, 4 GOA, Street Ballard Estate,
Mumbai 400 0038. INDIA
Tel.No.: (022) 22618363, 2261 8369 Fax : (022) 22615929
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Mohamed Ebrahim Serang
Dr. Leo Barnes