Cabinet agrees to amend Merchant Shipping Act

June 15, 2015 11:56 am Published by

Accession to International Bunker Convention

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, has approved the Ministry of Shipping’s (MoS) proposal for the country’s accession to the International Bunker Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It also agreed to amend the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 to give effect to the Bunker Convention, Nairobi Convention and Salvage Convention, official sources said.

The Bunker Convention ensures adequate, prompt and effective compensation for damage caused by oil spills when carried as fuel in ships’ bunkers. The territorial jurisdiction for damage compensation extends to territorial sea and exclusive economic zones. It applies to an Indian vessel, wherever it is situated, and to a foreign flag vessel while it is within the Indian jurisdiction, sources added.

The registered owner of every vessel should maintain compulsory insurance cover which allows claim for compensation for pollution damage to be brought directly against an insurer.

According to official sources, every ship above one thousand gross tonnage has to carry a certificate on board to the effect that it maintains insurance or other financial security, such as the guarantee of a bank or similar financial institution.

In India, the Directorate-General of Shipping (DG Shipping) shall issue the certificate, and in foreign countries their respective maritime authorities will do the same. No vessel will be permitted to enter or leave India without such a certificate.

The liability cover for pollution damage shall be equal to the limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime, but in all cases not exceeding an amount calculated in accordance with the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976. India is a party to Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims convention and its provisions already exist in the Merchant Shipping Act and Rules thereunder.

If India does not become a party to the Bunker Convention, Indian flag ships calling foreign ports will have to continue with the present dispensation of approaching foreign countries for bunker insurance compliance certificates, whereas foreign ships visiting Indian ports are not subjected to compulsory insurance.

The proposed amendments to the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, if enacted, shall also give effect to the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention and the Salvage Convention of IMO, to which India is already a party. It will facilitate more purposeful approach towards removal of wrecks and salvage, protect Indian waters from wreck hazards, and introduce internationally recognised and approved rules for removal of wrecks.

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