The Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways have issued a draft of the Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 with all updated International Maritime Organisation Conventions, to which India is a party and invited the public for their comments on the bill. The Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 has been drafted to promote the growth of the Indian shipping industry by incorporating the best practices adopted by other advanced countries such as the US, Japan, UK, Singapore, and Australia, the official release said. The bill has increased the welfare of Indian seafarers on abandoned vessels and safety of such vessels, it said. Further, to promote ease of doing business, the Bill anulls with the requirement of general trading licence for Indian vessels, it added.
Salient features of the drafted Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020:
The bill provides maritime liabilities and compensations, and ensures comprehensive adoption of India’s obligations under International Conventions.
The bill has the provisions to ensure the safety and security of vessels, safety of life at sea, prevent marine pollution.
The bill has the provision for repatriation of abandoned seafarers has been enhanced, in line with the Maritime Labour Convention regulations.
The bill enables electronic means of registration, and grants statutory recognition to electronic agreements, records, and log-books, in addition to electronic licenses, certificates, and payments.
The Bill has clauses to increase India’s tonnage and to make the vessel a tradeable asset.
The Bill seeks to introduce for the first-time statutory framework for regulating maritime emergency response against maritime incidents. The Bill further seeks to provide for the time-effective implementation of response mechanisms in order to prevent such incidents from becoming a wreck or catastrophe. This is to promote India as a bankable shipping jurisdiction and avoid situations leading to the wreck.
To strengthen the investigation and adjudication of claims arising out of a collision of vessels, assessors may be tasked by the High Courts to present their findings on the degrees of the fault of each vessel.
The Bill incorporates powers of the Director-General to take action against vessels that are unsafe, and pose a threat to the safety of life at sea and environment, and includes a procedure for appeal from detention orders. This is to make India an active enforcement jurisdiction.
The Bill also encourages active enforcement of pollution prevention standards. Central Government has been granted the power to mandate compulsory insurance or such other financial security, for pollution damage.