Cabinet nod to amend Merchant Ship Act to protect environment

May 7, 2015 1:18 pm Published by

The government today gave nod for introducing a bill seeking to amend Merchant Shipping Act, in line with a global convention, to protect environment and human health from ballast water and sediments used in ships. “The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi today gave its approval for the introduction of the Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 2015, and accession to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 of International Maritime Organization,” an official statement said.

Ships not constructed to carry ballast water, warships, naval auxiliary or other government-owned non-commercial ships will be exempted, it said. The convention requires all new ships to implement an approved ballast water and sediments management plan. All new ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and follow ballast water management procedures to a given standard.
Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period, the statement said adding, ships are required to be surveyed and certified and may also be inspected by Port State Control officers who can verify that the vessel has a valid certificate.

The need for amendment was felt as ballast water poses serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species being carried in the process, including harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. Ships fill their ballast tanks with water to stabilise vessels at sea for maintaining safe operating conditions. Ballast water reduces stress on the hull, provides transverse stability, improves propulsion and manoeuvrability and compensates for weight. Indian ships of 400 Gross Tonnage (GT) and above on overseas voyages are required to possess an international ballast water management certificate.

Indian ships below 400 GT plying within the territorial waters of India shall be issued an Indian ballast water management certificate. “Port authorities will be statutorily obliged to provide ballast water sediment reception facilities. Indian and foreign ships of 400 GT and above are required to carry onboard a ballast water management plan,” the statement said. It added that ships of 400 GT above shall also be subject to survey and inspection. During inspection sample of ballast water can be analysed. If a ship complies with the convention but is still detained or delayed for inspection without any reasonable cause, it will be eligible for compensation or damages,” the statement said. The proposed Bill also provides for penalty on violation or non-compliance of the provisions. There are no financial implications to the government. Ports will charge ships for the use of such facilities.

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