Captain Harry Subramaniam, India’s great seafarer mentor, dies from Covid-19

One of the most influential people in Indian seafarer training circles died early today from Covid-19. 

Tributes have been paid all day to Captain Harry Subramaniam, whose eight books on seafaring served as a cornerstone in Indian maritime education for decades. 

Subramaniam was born in 1942 in Ootacamund in the Nilagiri Hills of south India. He went to sea for much of the 1960s, before returning ashore determined to shake up the maritime education scene.

During Subramaniam’s early days as a lecturer at the L.B.S. Nautical College, his mother, Vijaya, saw his dismay as he had to refer to one book for instruments, another for coding and decoding weather reports, another for tropical meteorology and yet another for temperate latitude weather, all just to teach meteorology. One day, she asked him, “Why don’t you write a book of your own?” She took a loan from a bank to publish the first book, Practical Navigation and with that Vijaya Publications was born, with the ideology that everything can be made concisely available in a nutshell as the series of eight books became known.

Latterly Subramaniam also worked as a marine examinations adviser with the Marshall Islands Ship Registry.

Captain Rajesh Unni, the founder of Singapore ship manager Synergy Group, tweeted today how Subramaniam had left a legacy as a mentor to generations of seafarers.

Zarir Irani, managing director at Constellation Marine Surveyors, described Subramaniam on social media as a “guru, an inspiration, a humble human being, a legend with professionalism and integrity”.

On LinkedIn, Subramaniam’s son, Hari, who works for the Shipowners’ Club in Singapore, wrote: “Hope your new voyage to Heaven is as smooth a sailing as your devoted selflessness.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. We at Rak Training Ship Sindbad – myself, all our students and staff join Capt. Harry Subramanium’s family in prayers and convey our deepest sympathy. We, truly feel blessed, privileged, and honored that Capt. Subramanium was a part of our lives. His contribution to the seafaring world and legacy “Nutshell series books” will always remain part of our curriculum and knowledge for the thousands of seafarer worldwide.
    RIP Capt. Subra

    Capt Ajay Kotwal
    CEO Rak Training Ship Sindbad

  2. I am from a very small island in the Indian Ocean; Mauritius. I was a student of Capt. Subra during my second mate’s studies at LBS College in Mumbai. What a great human being Capt Subra was! As a foreign national, he did his very best to help me sort out the many issues I had. His teaching and his books were exceptional.
    My prayers and thoughts are with his family and all his ex- students from Mauritius are deeply saddened.
    RIP Sir!
    Capt. Asiva Coopen

  3. Very sad RiP ?

    We have lost one of the pillars and foundation of Indian Maritime Education and Training.

    It was my privilege that he as Principal selected me in LBS as Nautical faculty. That’s where my training career was launched way back in May 1999.

    He was an excellent teacher and even better as an administrator. What he said had a lot of weightage, and was readily accepted by the administration.

    His Nutshell series books have been read by one and all for their COC.

    His enthusiasm was phenomenal. He will always be in our hearts and memory.

    My sincere condolences to his family ??

  4. RIP Capt Hari Subramanian !! ?
    A colorful personality who cud b as jovial yet tough, in classrooms.
    A teacher par excellence.

    #CaptSubra was “Make in India” decades back with “Nutshell Series” of books that was published.
    Before him all nautical books were from UK.
    Which were said to be from Taiwan. Infact he once joked his books will be soon be available from Taiwan, but ‘buggers’, don’t buy them. Ok !!
    Legacy he left behind is unparalleled!?

  5. Loss of a Mentor and a Fountainhead of knowledge . RIP Sir .You had miles to go further . Very very sad news. I was very lucky to be staying in Chembur Borla Housing Society 1981 in rented accommodation arranged by Capt. Harry sir On Sundays he used to visit us Cadets and solve riddles of Navigation and Ship Construction . I was proudly, his favourite student. There was not a single class of any Nautical subject ,I may have missed ,during all my Grades of exams 2M to Master in LBS. The enthusiasm within him was simply infectious. Simple solutions to hardest problems . Influenced very strongly my 40years of sea life all the way, during the Golden teaching era of Capt TKJoseph and Capt Rewari sir!
    Praying for your departed soul Sir and added strength to your dear family to bear this huge Loss.

    Capt Malvinder Singh

  6. RIP Capt Subra

    We all grown up reading his books and managed to clear various competency examinations. Till today we refer his books onboard to clear our doubts and to teach cadets.
    We have a lost a great personality.

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