Union Cabinet approves introduction of Merchant Shipping Bill, 2016
It provides for issuing the licences to Indian flag vessels for coastal operation and for port clearance by the Customs authorities.
Union Cabinet on 23 November 2016 approved the introduction of Merchant Shipping Bill, 2016 in the Parliament. Simultaneously, the cabinet also approved repealing of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.
The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 has been amended 17 times between 1966 and 2014 resulting in an increase in the number of sections to more than 560 sections. However, these provisions have been shortened to 280 sections in the Bill.
Provisions of the Bill
• It allows substantially-owned vessels and vessels on Bare Boat-cum-Demise (BBCD) to be registered as Indian flag vessels.
• It recognises Indian controlled tonnage as a separate category.
• It provides for issuing the licences to Indian flag vessels for coastal operation and for port clearance by the Customs authorities.
• It calls for making separate rules for coastal vessels to develop and promote coastal shipping.
• It introduces welfare measures for seafarers by providing them with the wages till they are released from hostage captivity of pirates and reach back home safely.
• It directs owners of vessels to take insurance of crew engaged on vessels including fishing, sailing, etc. This applies for the vessels whose net tonnage is less than 15 tons.
• It says that the requirement of signing of articles of agreement by the crew will no longer be necessary.
• It calls for registration of few residuary category of vessels not covered under any statute and makes provisions for security-related aspects.
• It adds provisions relating to seven different conventions- Intervention Convention 1969, Search and Rescue Convention 1979, Protocol for Prevention of Pollution from Ships Annex VI to Marine Pollution Convention, 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.
• It also provides for survey, inspection and certification of vessels to enable simplified regime for convenience of Indian shipping industry.