LEGENDS









Walchand Hirachand - ‘can do’ spirit:

Once Winston Churchill said that a successful man could succeed in any vocation, profession or business. What successful men possess, that others, not so successful do possess; the combination of skill, uncanny ability to take risks, and most importantly an unerring eye for opportunities. Such persons are called visionaries. Walchand Hirachand was a visionary and a patriot, driven by the vision of making India a modern industrial giant. Walchand Hirachand has more first to his credit than an entire generation of entrepreneurs. He founded the first Indian Shipping Company, which we all fondly know as Scindia Steam Navigation and which had been a cradle for many a seafarers. He created a new shipyard, now known as Hindustan Shipyard at Vishakhapatam. This shipyard has the distinction of building independent India’s first ship ‘SS JAL YAMUNA’. These are the corner stones of the Indian Shipping. Other firsts in his list are Hindustan Aircraft, now known as Hindustan Aeronautics, and Premier Automobile, which rolled out India’s first automobile. By no means a mean achievement in the teeth of British opposition.

Sardar Patel complimented him by saying that his life was truly a triumph of persistence over adversities. 

Dr Chandrika Prasad Srivastava – ‘a living legend of the maritime world’

Dr Chandrika Prasad Srivastava

C.P.Srivastava started his career as an IAS officer and ever since the dawn of Indian Independence, he has played an important role in the maritime development of his country. Early in his career, he found his forte in the field of seafarers training and welfare.During 1947-48, he was the prime mover in the establishment of a network of new maritime training institutions, which have since produced world class maritime personnel,

greatly facilitating the growth of Indian Shipping in the years following Independence.

After a stint at the Directorate General of Shipping, he was appointed as the Founder Chief Executive of the Shipping Corporation of India, a Government of India enterprise, which he built as the largest Shipping Company of India and one of the largest and most successful shipping companies of the world, with a diversified fleet of cargo liners, tankers, bulk carriers and passenger ships. For his exceptionally outstanding work as Chairman & Managing Director of the Shipping Corporation of India, he was awarded Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 1972.In 1974, he was elected, for a four-year term, as the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, the highest position in the maritime world. Thereafter he was re-elected unanimously for three further terms and he continued in this position till 1989. As a result of his dynamic and visionary leadership, IMO developed rapidly both in terms of its Membership as well as in respect of its work for the enhancement of maritime safety and for the prevention of marine pollution from ships. In recognition of the crucial importance of the human element in ensuring safety and efficiency in international shipping, special attention was given to the development of global standards for the training and certification of seafarers. Other steps initiated during his tenure included the establishment of the One Way Traffic Separation Scheme, separate lanes for large ships, Reporting, Monitoring and Transit Control Systems etc. As a result, international shipping operates today in an extremely well regulated and disciplined manner. Indeed such was his contribution to the World of Shipping that on completion of his long and prolific innings at the IMO, he was appointed its Secretary-General Emeritus, the only Indian to have been so honoured in the entire United Nations System.

Dr. Srivastava also pioneered the setting up of high quality and specialised maritime training institutions like the World Maritime University at Malmo (of which he was the Chancellor), IMO International Law Institute at Malta and IMO International Maritime Academy at Trieste in Italy. As a result, many developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America have acquired world class maritime personnel and have thus become self-reliant in the maritime sector.

Srivastava’s exceptionally outstanding services to the world maritime community have been acclaimed by all maritime nations of the world, both developing and developed. Many countries have conferred upon him some of their highest national awards. The Queen of Great Britain bestowed upon him a knighthood – KCMG. At an official banquet organised by the British Government on this occasion, Lord Parkinson, a British Government Cabinet Minister, described Srivastava as ‘a living legend’ of the maritime world. The King of Sweden, the King of Norway and the King of Spain have bestowed upon him their high national honours, equivalent to a knighthood. The Presidents of Germany, Italy, Poland, Brazil, Panama, Liberia, Egypt and many other countries and many international organisations in the maritime world have similarly acclaimed his work as well as his inspiring personal qualities. Each one has conferred its own high honour on him.

An Indian administrator and diplomat par excellence who has won the esteem and admiration of the world maritime community and who has acquired a special place in the maritime history of the twentieth century

Vasant Jagjivan Sheth - ‘uncommon acumen’

Born in 1927, Vasant Jagjiwan Sheth at the age of sixteen decided to seek fame and fortune in the city of Mumbai and joined his family business. He quickly showed his acumen and was sent to USA to untangle a complicated business deal, and with the help of the then international firm, Golodetz, successfully resolved the difficult issue.

On his way to America, he learnt from a Washington lawyer that the surplus American war fleet was to be disposed of, which prompted him to go into shipping business.The ship ‘Fort Ellice’ was subsequently bought and remained Jag Vijay. With the purchase of this vessel, the foundation of The Great Eastern Shipping Company was laid.In 1948, the paid-up capital of Great Eastern Shipping was Rs.20 lakh. During the first year freight and charter hire earnings were Rs.39.82 lakh and net profit Rs.3.02 lakh. Towards the end of Mr.Sheth’s tenure in 1991-92, the paid-up capital of the company had risen to Rs.8555 lakhs. Freight and charter hire earnings in 1991-92 amounted to Rs.33177 lakhs, a quantum jump in a span of about 50 years.

Great Eastern pioneered the overseas tramp trade (bulk cargo trade) and thereby opened avenues for shipping expansion, succeeding in putting an end to stagnation in the public sector. Mr. Sheth showed keen interest in the promotion of excellence in maritime education, training and research in India. He also endeavoured to inform the government machinery and other ship-owners, as to how freedom of operation would enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of Indian shipping. He stated at one of Great Eastern’s AGM: "I feel that Indian ship-owners should not seek subsidies, but they are entitled to ask for open and fair competition where Indian lines are treated as equal. Unfortunately, it is not so…"

The National Maritime Celebration Committee, which includes representatives of the government, ship-owners and seafarers, conferred on Mr. Sheth posthumously the Varuna Award in 1993. The Great Eastern Shipping Co. established and managed by him and now owning a well diversified fleet consisting of oil tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers and Off Shore vessels, became the largest shipping company in the private sector, a lasting testimony to his pioneering genius, vision and business acumen.

* one lakh is equal to 0.1 million

T.K.T. SRISAILAM – A COLOSSUS

 

Early Childhood

Mr. Tirumalai Kumara Tolappa Srisailam was born on December 22, 1918 in Masulipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. He was the youngest of six children. His father, Mr. Viraraghavacharya, named him after their ancestor, Tirumalai Nambi, the maternal uncle of the great religious savant, Ramanuja Acharya. Mr. Srisailam had his early schooling in Masulipatnam, Nellore and finally in Tirupathi, where he obtained his secondary school leaving certificate.

Training Ship Dufferin

At the young age of fifteen, Mr. Srisailam commenced his merchant navy training aboard the training ship “Dufferin”. He topped his class, ranking either first or second during the four years of training. He made it into a select group for special recruitment into the Royal Indian Navy, bypassing the regular competitive examinations. It was an odd set of circumstances that prevented him from undertaking the special selection examinations and instead, launched him into the marine engineering profession. He was knocked out in a boxing match and that prevented him from successfully completing the oral and written component of the selection examination. Thereafter, he elected to do his marine engineering apprenticeship and joined the Mazagaon Dock. During that time, he worked on some challenging and educative projects.  His apprenticeship ended in 1940. 

Sea-Going Career

Mr. Srisailam decided to get married before embarking on his sea-going career. It was a turbulent time politically. India was faced with the freedom struggle and the prospect of joining the war effort. His father and brother, who had offered Satyagraha, were arrested and sentenced to long terms in prison. It was a tense situation.

Mr. Srisailam applied for employment as Junior Engineer with the Scindia Steam Navigation Company and joined their ship “S.S. Jaladurga”. His own account of joining that ship is extraordinary. He was ordered by the Company to join the vessel in Vishakapatnam. But the ship had already sailed to Gopalpur. On reaching Gopalpur, he found that the ship was anchored about four miles from the beach. The only mode of transport to reach the ship was a fishing boat. The fishermen rowed him out to the vessel. The sea was choppy and there was no ladder to board the ship. So, a couple of seamen yanked him onto to the ship deck. Thus he boarded his first ship! Mr. Srisailam served in different capacities on cargo ships, owned primarily by Scindia Steam Navigation Company and British India Steamship Company, which undertook voyages to the Mediterranean, East African and South-East Asian ports.

Teaching Career

In 1948, Mr. Srisailam started his teaching career as a Second Engineer Officer of the “T. S. Dufferin” without any formal preparation or training as a teacher! He had to lecture on all topics required for completing the training of the last three batches of engineering cadets. He was also responsible for examining and evaluating those trainees. He would write later: “I had to acquire the necessary knowledge and the capability to undertake this task as I went along.... The reason I managed to do the job is due to the wonderful batches of cadets I had to deal with.”

Mr. Srisailam obtained his Extra First Class certificate from the U.K. in 1951-52. Upon the inception of the Directorate of Marine Engineering Training (D.M.E.T.), he was appointed its Deputy Director in Bombay in 1953. There, he had to organize and conduct classes for sea-going engineers preparing for their certificates of competency in addition to covering the curriculum for the cadets. He simultaneously worked in the capacity of Vice Principal, Nautical and Engineering College, Bombay (presently L.B.S. College of Advanced Maritime Studies & Research), teaching post sea engineer officers for various M.O.T. courses.

In 1958, Mr. Srisailam was appointed Director of the D.M.E.T. - the first Indian marine engineer to take charge of the prestigious post - and had a unique tenure of fifteen years in that position. But, his most cherished and rewarding experience was his interaction with his students. He attributed his success as a teacher to the mutual understanding and co-operation that he received from them. He would write: “While the teacher tries to teach the student, the student is helping the teacher to learn to teach. Propagation of knowledge depends on such a process. The first time I stood in front of the cadets in a class, I had no cue as to how I should begin my lecture, or what I should say. The help always came from the students themselves. They gave me the lead as to how I should begin.”

He recalled later in a message to the D.M.E.T ex-cadets association, Chennai, on the occasion of the D.M.E.T Golden Jubilee celebrations, “The teaching and training staff who came together at that time were people dedicated to the task and did their job very well. The ultimate credit for the professional achievements and success in the life of the cadets belongs to the cadets themselves. The ultimate pleasure I got in life is to see the achievements of my students.”

UN Assignment

In early 1974, Mr. Srisailam was selected by the International Maritime Organization (I.M.O.) to participate in a U.N.D.P. project tasked with the establishment of the Arab Maritime Transport Academy (A.M.T.A., or the “Academy”) in Alexandria, Egypt. His initial designation was Chief of Marine Engineering Studies. He was later elevated to Chief Technical Advisor. Mr. Srisailam’s assignment lasted nine years. While in Egypt, his efforts and leadership led to the establishment of the Egyptian Branch of the Institute of Marine Engineers, London. The late Mr. J. Stuart Robinson, Secretary of the Institute in London, and many other dignitaries were present for the inaugural function. At the conclusion of the opening speeches, a standing ovation followed mention of Mr. Srisailam as the architect of the whole event. In a message to the Academy, Mr. Srisailam wrote, “Who would not do anything in his power to help those that had this depth of feeling towards oneself.”

Retirement

Mr. Srisailam retired from active service in 1983 and settled in Bangalore. He split his time between his home in India and visits to his sons in the United States (US) and Australia. After leading a relatively active retirement, Mr. Srisailam was diagnosed with renal failure in 2000 and placed on a dialysis regimen in the US. He bore that setback with equanimity and maintained a positive outlook till his last days.

Mr. Srisailam passed away in the US on July 31, 2002 after a three-week hospitalization for pneumonia. His compassion for the younger generation, concern for the future of the marine engineering fraternity, and above all his humane values are well known. The concept of planning and organizing marine engineering training in India was foremost in his heart throughout his career. Much of our present infrastructure is a testament to his forethought and vision.


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