India Approves Introduction of Merchant Shipping Bill 2016

India’s revamped Merchant Shipping Bill 2016 is expected to simplify the law governing merchant shipping in India, while certain redundant provisions will be dispensed with and remaining provisions will stand consolidated and simplified.

The country’s Cabinet has approved the introduction of the Merchant Shipping Bill 2016 in the Parliament and repealing of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.

The significant reforms that will be introduced, upon enactment of the Bill, are augmentation of Indian tonnage promotion/development of coastal shipping in India by allowing substantially-owned vessels and vessels on Bare Boat-cum-Demise (BBCD) charter by Indians to be registered as India-flagged vessels, recognising Indian controlled tonnage as a separate category, dispensing with the requirement for issuing of licences to Indian flag vessels for coastal operation and for port clearance by the Customs authorities, and making separate rules for coastal vessels to develop and promote coastal shipping.

Other reforms under the Bill would include introduction of welfare measures for seafarers, registration of certain residuary category of vessels not covered under any statute, incorporation of all International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Conventions/Protocols in the Indian laws up-to-date by inserting provisions relating to seven different conventions.

The Indian Government said that the provisions for survey, inspection and certification of vessels are now placed together to provide for a simplified regime for convenience of Indian shipping industry.

The Coasting Vessels Act, 1838, which is an archaic legislation of the British era providing for registration of non-mechanically propelled vessels to a limited jurisdiction of Saurashtra and Kutch, is proposed to be repealed since in the Merchant Shipping Bill 2016 provisions have been introduced for registration of all vessels for the whole of India.