Merchant Shipping Bill (Amendment) 2016: A Brief Analysis


On the 23rd of November, the parliament approved a new Merchant Shipping Bill by repealing the 58-old-merchant shipping act 1958; a new law will promote and alleviate the business, transparency in business, and effective delivery of services. This act as by its name visibly deals with shipping laws. Shipping assumes an essential part of the transport sector of India’s economy. Roughly, 90 for every penny of the nation’s exchange by volume (70 for each penny regarding value) is moved via ocean. India has the biggest merchant shipping fleet among the developing nations and positions twentieth amongst the nations with the biggest cargo conveying armada. Indian maritime sector helps transportation of national and global load as well as gives an assortment of different administrations, for example, payload taking care of administrations, shipbuilding and ship repairing, cargo sending, beacon offices, and preparing of marine faculty, and so on.

Old Law In Relation To Merchant Shipping

There were two major laws that regulate merchant shipping in India Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and Coasting Vessel Act, 1838 but due to the various amendments which took place with the passage of time and law become a bulky piece of legislation. The Act was amended 17 times in a span of 49 years between 1966 and 2014 owing to which the number of sections increased to 560. The Coasting Vessel Act, 1838 which is an obsolete legislation of the British period, provided restricted jurisdiction of non- mechanically propelled vessels for registration to Saurashtra and Kutch. Both the laws regulating merchant shipping in India were not up to mark as they failed to fulfill the requirement, they were not providing proper jurisdiction for the registration of vessels even the insurance of vessels were not mandatory according to Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and Coasting Vessel Act.

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Merchant Shipping Bill, 1958

As merchant shipping is considered to be an essential part of trade and transportation, the cabinet of our country wanted a decorous and appropriate law to govern the merchant shipping instead of a bulky and husky law, by keeping this in mind on 25th November 2016 minister of  shipping, Mr. Nitin Gadkari  introduced The Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2016.  The Amendment aims at ensuring compliance with International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001 which assures prompt, effective and adequate damages attainable to the person who suffers loss caused by oil spills. Likewise the Bill makes Amendments to invoke provisions of the Act in line with the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, and the International Convention on Salvage, 1989.

India’s revamped Merchant Shipping Bill, 2016 to streamline the law governing merchant shipping in India, while some surplus provisions were discarded and remaining provision stood unified, simple and consolidated.

Under the Amended Bill other reforms would include the introduction of welfare measures for seafarers, registration of certain residuary category of vessels not covered under any statute, incorporation of all International Maritime Organization (IMO) Conventions/Protocols, etc. Over and above the provision for inspection, survey and certification of vessels are placed together in the Amended Bill to provide simple governance for the convenience of Indian shipping sector.

Salient Features of the Bill

The key features of the bill are:

  • It allows registration as Indian flag vessels of substantially owned vessels and vessels on bare cum demise (BBCD).
  • Bill acknowledges Indian controlled tonnage as a distinct category and makes different provisions regarding coastal vessels for the development of coastal shipping in India.
  • Bill makes it compulsory for a vessel owner to take insurance of crew engaged on vessels including sailing and fishing whose net tonnage is less than 15.
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Merchant shipping bill 2016 repeals merchant shipping bill 1958 and Coasting Vessel Act as they failed to fulfill the need of the time. The Government Amended the law so there can be an efficient regulation of merchant shipping in India. As a result, the Merchant Shipping Bill (Amendment) 2016 came into effect with new and improved laws.

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