A new legislation to ensure the welfare of seafarers, make insurance compulsory for the crew on vessels in view of growing instances of piracy and bringing in transparency and effective delivery of services was introduced in Lok Sabha on Friday.
The Merchant Shipping Bill 2016, which seeks to repeal the 1958 Act and a British-era Vessels Act and make the law "contemporaneous, futuristic and dynamic" to meet the requirements of the emerging Indian economy, was introduced by minister of state for road transport and shipping P Radhakrishnan.
"It has become imperative to repeal the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and the Coasting Vessels Act, 1838" and ensure that the redundant and old British-era provisions of these laws be replaced with contemporary provisions, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill said.
The Bill seeks to ensure efficient maintenance of Indian mercantile marine to serve national interests and to see that laws relating to merchant shipping comply with the country's obligations under international conventions and maritime treaties to which India is a party.
The minister also withdrew the Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill, 2015, before introducing the comprehensive legislation. The proposed measure seeks to entitle the seafarers held in captivity of pirates to receive wages till they are released from captivity and reach home safely so as to ensure welfare of seafarers, the statement said.
It seeks to make insurance compulsory for the crew engaged on vessels, including fishing, sailing, non-propelled vessels and vessels whose net tonnage is less than 15 and solely engaged in coasting trade of India, by owner of vessel.
The bill aims to dispense with the requirement of signing of articles of agreement by the crew before the shipping master so as to facilitate early employment of seafarers.
The Cabinet had last month approved the Bill to repeal the 58-year old law to promote ease of doing business, transparency and effective delivery of services.
The Merchant Shipping Act 1958 had become a bulky piece of legislation over the years as a result of 17 amendments carried out in the Act between 1966 and 2014, resulting in an increase in the number of sections to over 560.
These provisions were meticulously shortened to 280 sections in the Bill, an official statement said earlier. The reforms that will follow the enactment of the Bill include augmentation of Indian tonnage promotion, development of coastal shipping in India and registration of certain residuary category of vessels not covered under any statute.