The Union Cabinet has approved introduction of the Merchant Shipping Bill, 2016 in the Parliament.
The bill is a revamped version of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. It seeks to repeal Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 as well the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.
Key Features of Bill
- Allows substantially-owned vessels and vessels on Bare Boat-cum-Demise (BBCD) to be registered as Indian flag vessels.
- Recognises Indian controlled tonnage as a separate category. Makes separate rules for coastal vessels to develop and promote coastal shipping.
- Dispenses with the requirement for issuing of licences to Indian flag vessels for coastal operation and for port clearance by the Customs authorities
- Seafarers held in hostage captivity of pirates will receive wages till they are released and reach home back safely.
- Mandatory for vessels owners to compulsorily take insurance of crew engaged on vessels including fishing, sailing and whose net tonnage is less than 15.
- The crew members now don’t need to sign of articles of agreement before the Shipping Master.
- Incorporates all International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions/Protocols in Indian laws up-to-date by inserting provisions relating to 7 different conventions.
- These 7 different conventions are Intervention Convention 1969, Search and Rescue Convention 1979, Protocol for Prevention of Pollution from Ships, Convention for Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments 2004, Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention 2007, Salvage Convention 1989 and International Convention for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001.
- Besides, the provisions for survey, inspection and certification of vessels are placed together in Bill to provide simplified regime for convenience of Indian shipping industry.
Why the bill repeals old laws?
- As a result of various amendments carried out in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 from time to time, it had become a bulky piece of legislation over the years.
- It was amended 17 times between 1966 and 2014 which had resulted in increase in the number of sections to more than 560 sections.
- The new bill has provisions which have been meticulously shortened to 280 sections. It also simplifies the law governing the merchant shipping in India.
- Further, certain redundant provisions have been removed and remaining provisions have been consolidated and simplified to promote ease of doing business, transparency and effective delivery of services.
- The Coasting Vessels Act, 1838 was also an archaic legislation of the British era. It provided limited jurisdiction for registration of non-mechanically propelled vessels to Saurashtra and Kutch. The proposed bill allows registration of all vessels for the whole of India.