- In July 2021, the Lok Sabha passed The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, and it will control the safety, security, and registration of inland vessels.
- Once passed by Parliament, this Bill will supersede the Inland Vessels Act of 1917.
- According to the government, the 1917 Act was viewed as purely consolidating legislation with limited scope and goals. It had been amended multiple times, the most recent major revisions occurring in 1977 and 2007.
- The Inland Vessels Act was passed in 1917, According to the Union Shipping Minister, the Act has grown outdated and insufficient to manage the sector’s expanding complexities.
Why was the bill needed?
- The new bill which is adaptive and favourable for future technological developments, capable of facilitating present and future prospects of trade & transportation and safe navigation by inland vessels was necessitated.
- The older Act included provisions such as limiting the movement of mechanically propelled vessels within the jurisdiction of state governments, requiring endorsements, limiting the applicability and validity of certificates, and non-uniform standards and regulations that differed from one state to the next, all of which hampered and hampered seamless navigation across states and the sector’s development.
- The smooth and interstate movement of inland vessels across the country is impacted by operational issues, and it is critical to ensure that movement along the waterways is absolutely seamless across state boundaries in order to realize the true potential of inland water transport and promote it as an environmentally friendly alternative to the congested road and rail network.
- The Inland Vessels Bill 2021 also establishes a development fund that will be used for a variety of reasons, including emergency preparedness, pollution control, and inland water navigation enhancement.
- They will also Offer an e-portal or central database system for registration or crew database, thereby embracing the spirit of a Digital India and aims to cover future developments as well as technological advancements in the construction and usage of vessels.
- The Inland Vessels Bill of 2021 aims to unify all inland waterways in India, as well to make India’s interior waterways a viable, prospering mode of transportation, particularly for cargo. The inland waterways network stretches for about 15,000 kilometers via rivers, canals, backwaters, and creeks.
- A designated authority will have to approve any construction or change. All vessels of this type must be registered with their respective states or union territories. In a central database, their movements and identities will be tracked.
- In order to operate in inland waters, vessels must have a registration certificate and a survey certificate. The certificate of registration will be valid across India. State governments will issue the survey certificates.
- Ships, boats, sailing vessels, container vessels, and ferries are all included in the bill’s definition of such vessels. The federal government will set standards such as
1) the classification
2) Design, construction, and crew accommodations,
3) The type and frequency of surveys for these boats. Such vessels will require the authorization of a recognized authority prior to construction or alteration.
- The vessels should also be covered by an insurance policy that covers liability for death, injury, or damage caused by their operation, including pollution.
- This bill will enhance inland waterway transportation and trade in a cost-effective and safe manner, as well as bring uniformity to the law’s application.
- As this bill directs the Central Government to designate a list of chemicals, compounds, and other pollutants as pollutants, it will aid in decreasing the water pollution caused by these inland vessels.
- The new law specifies that if a vessel’s master sends out a distress or SOS signal, every other vessel nearby must reply – similar to maritime custom and rules at sea. If the master of a nearby vessel fails to come to the rescue, he or she faces a punishment of up to Rs 10,000.
- The Opposition has criticized the Bill on the ground that it takes away a lot of rights of the states and vests them with the Centre.
- The bill will boost trade, commerce and economic activities across the country and fulfil the vision of achieving a forward-looking and robust legal regime in the critical areas of infrastructure and governance.
content contributed by- Meghna.Manoj