Context: The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has come up with a draft of the Merchant Shipping Bill, 2020 for public consultation. 

More on the news: 

  • It has been a priority of the government of India 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 has also issued two draft Bills for public consultation, namely ‘Aids to Navigation Bill 2020’ and ‘Coastal Shipping Bill 2020’. Moreover, Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 is also under consideration.
  • All these Bills are going to generate sweeping waves in the maritime scenario moving India towards a fully developed maritime economy.

About the Bill:

  • Repeal and replace: The Bill aims to repeal and replace the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.
  • Incorporate the best practices: It has the primary aim of promoting the growth of the Indian shipping industry by incorporating the best practices adopted by other advanced countries like the U.S., Japan, U.K., Singapore and Australia. 
  • Compliant with international laws: The Bill incorporates all up-to-date IMO Conventions or protocols, to which India is a party. 
  • Ensure safety and security: The Bill incorporates adequate provisions to ensure the safety and security of vessels, safety of life at sea, prevent marine pollution, provide for maritime liabilities and compensations.
  • The envisioned advantages of the Bill:
    • Promoting ease of doing business by doing away with requirement of general trading license for Indian vessels
    • Embracing digital technology by enabling electronic means of registration, and grants statutory recognition to electronic agreements, records, etc.
    • Increasing tonnage and Vessel as a Tradable Asset by widening the eligibility criteria for ownership of vessels.
    • Introducing, for the first-time statutory framework for regulating maritime emergency response against maritime incidents. 
    • Welfare of Indian seafarers on abandoned vessels and safety of abandoned vessels by including provisions for repatriation of abandoned seafarers.
    • Strengthening adjudication and predictability of claims as assessors may be tasked by the High Courts to present their findings on the degrees of fault of each vessel.
    • India an Active Enforcement Jurisdiction by incorporating 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.


  • Increased opportunities for investment: The Bill provides greater impetus to a self-reliant domestic investment climate in the maritime industry. 
  • Impetus to the quality and quantity of Indian seafarers: By including provisions regulating the maritime education, training, certification and the recruitment and placement of seafarers. 
  • Boost employment opportunities: For Indian seafarers in the national and international market. 
  • Benefits will be extended to ancillary sectors: Connected with the shipping industry in consonance with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives of the government.

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1676050

Source: ET