Merchant Shipping Bill issued for public consultation

Govt issues draft 'Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020' for public consultation

The proposed legislation aims to repeal and replace the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958

Representative Image. Credit: Pixabay Photo

The Centre on Thursday said it has issued draft 'Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020' for public consultation.

The proposed legislation aims to repeal and replace the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.

The Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 has been drafted with the primary aim of promoting the growth of Indian shipping industry by incorporating the best practices adopted by other advanced countries like the US, Japan, UK, Singapore and Australia, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said in a statement.

"The draft of the Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 is issued for seeking the feedback and suggestions from the public," it said.

All up-to-date International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions/protocols, to which India is a party, have been adopted in it.

Adequate provisions are incorporated to ensure the safety and security of vessels, safety of life at sea, prevent marine pollution, provide for maritime liabilities and compensations, and ensure comprehensive adoption of India's obligations under international conventions, the statement said.

The bill proposes to do away with requirement of general trading license for Indian vessels, enables electronic means of registration, and grants statutory recognition to electronic agreements, records, and log books, in addition to electronic licenses, certificates and payments.

It also seeks to increase India's tonnage by widening the eligibility criteria for ownership of vessels and providing for registration of bareboat charter cum demise, thereby increasing opportunities for international trade among others, it added.

The Bill seeks to introduce for the first-time statutory framework for regulating maritime emergency response against maritime incidents. The provisions seek to provide for time effective implementation of response mechanisms in order to ensure that the same is prevented from becoming a wreck or other catastrophic event.

Provisions for repatriation of abandoned seafarers have been enhanced, in line with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) regulations, the statement said.

The Bill incorporates powers of the Director-General to take action against vessels that are unsafe, and pose a threat to safety of life at sea and environment, and includes a procedure for appeal from detention orders.

It also incorporates provisions that encourage active enforcement of pollution prevention standards and the Central government has been granted the power to mandate compulsory insurance or such other financial security, for pollution damage.

The Bill seeks to provide increased opportunities for investment and provide greater impetus to a self-reliant domestic investment climate in the maritime industry.

The provisions regulating maritime education, training, certification and recruitment and placement of seafarers and ease of registration of ships under the Indian flag will give an impetus to the quality and quantity of Indian seafarers, it said.

Consequently, it will boost employment opportunities for Indian seafarers in the national and international market. The benefits will be extended to ancillary sectors connected with the shipping industry in consonance with 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiative of the government, the ministry said.

It has been a priority of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to replace all archaic colonial laws with modern and contemporary international laws with active participation of people to enhance transparency in the governance.

For the same, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways recently issued two draft Bills for public consultation, namely 'Aids to Navigation Bill 2020' and 'Coastal Shipping Bill 2020', and now this historical 'Draft Merchant Shipping Bill 2020' is being issued, within a short span of time of four months, the statement said.

Besides, Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 is also under the consideration of Rajya Sabha, which has been already passed by Lok Sabha in the last Parliament session.

All these Bills are going to generate sweeping waves in the maritime scenario, moving India towards a fully developed maritime economy, it said. 

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