Summary of Provisions under Merchant Shipping Act, 1958

Summary of Provisions under

M E R C H A N T S H I P P I N G A C T, 1 9 5 8


3.1 The first Indian Merchant Shipping Act was enacted in 1923, the provision of which were in line with the U.K. Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. After independence, taking care of new conditions and changes that have taken place in the Shipping Industry, a comprehensive legislation passed by Indian Parliament in 1958 known as Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. The Act has been constantly under revision and amendments to ratify the changes approved by the International Maritime Organisation, through its conventions and protocols, to which India is a Member.

3.2 The Merchant Shipping Act as is existed today has 24 parts. The review committee appointed by the Government of India, in 1991 under the Chairmanship of DG(s) to study the provision of the Act in its entiraty and give suggestions for amendments taking into consideration the International Convention which India has ratified but not statutorily enacted, has suggested comprehensive amendments to the Act including the amendment of the preamble of the Act. The basic provisions of Act given in various parts are as under: -

3.3 Part I deals with the preliminary giving short title of the Act and date of commencement, application of the Act and definitions of the terms used in the Act. The definitions have been given for 66 terms. Besides certain terms have been defined in their appropriate part where they have occurred specifically.

3.3.1 The review committee has suggested to delete the definition of the following terns on the ground that some of the terms defined under section 3 of the Act have abundant clarity as to their meaning in other relevant parts of Act. These are clause 5 - country to which Load line convention applies, clause 6 - country to which safety convention applies, clause 19 - Load line certificate, clause 20 - load line convention, clause 26 - pilgrim, clause 27 - pilgrimage, Clause 28 - pilgrim ship, Clause 37 - Safety Convention, Clause 38 - Safety Convention Certificate, Clause 53 - valid International load line Certificate and Clause 54 - valid safety convention certificate.

3.3.2 The review committee has suggested amendments of the definition of the following terms: -

Clause 1(a) Coasting ship, Clause 2 - Coasting trade of India, Clause 3 - distressed seaman, Clause 12 - Fishing vessel, Clause 16 - HomeTrade Ship, Clause 23 - Owner, Clause 29 - Port of Registry, Clause 35 - Registrar, Clause 42 - Seamen, Clause 45 - Ship, Clause 55 - Vessel and Clause 58 - Wreck.

3.3.3 The committee also suggested to add the definition of following terms in Section 3. Exclusive economic zone, Skipper, Storm, Tanker, Chemical Tanker and Gas Carrier.

3.4 Part II of the Act contains provisions relating to the establishment and composition of' National Shipping Board, its functions and powers of the Government to make rules in this respect for term of office of members, appointment of officers or other allowances of Board members.

3.5 Part III deals with the General Administration, appointment of Director General, establishment of Mercantile Marine Departments, Shipping Offices, Seaman's employment offices and Seamen's Welfare Offices. It also deals with the appointment of Principal Officers at MMD, Mumbai, Calcutta and Madras and other officers at other ports, appointment of surveyors, radio inspectors, Shipping Masters, Director of Seamen's Employment Offices and Seamen's Welfare Officers.

3.6 Part IV - which dealt with the formation of Shipping Development Fund and establishment of Shipping Development Fund Committee, has been abolished vide M.S. (Amendment) Act of 1986 (66 of 1986)

3.7 Part V deals with the registration of Indian ships. It defines the Indian ships, contains provisions for obligation to register, procedure for registration, Grant of certificate of registry, endorsement for change of Master and Owner, provision far transfer of ships shares etc., rules as to name of ship, provisions for registry of alternations registry a new and transfer of registry, national character of the ships and flag etc.

3.8 Part VI - gives provisions relating to the certificates of officers - Masters, Mates, Engineers, Skippers etc., and also requirments of officers on board various category of ships. Review Committee has recommended that instead of specifying the manning scale in the Act itself, Government should have rule makiing powers to prescribe different manning scale for different types of ships and also to carry a safe manning document on board the ship.

3.9 Part VI A contains provisions for obligation of certain certificate holders to serve Government or in Indian ships.

3.10 Part VII deals with seamen and apprentices. It gives vide ranging provision for classification of seamen, their engagements, discharge, payment of wages, their right for wages dispute between seamen and employers, provisions for property of deceased seamen and apprentices, distressed seamen, provisions for health and accommodation, protection of seamen in case of litigation and other matters, provision as to discipline, duties of Shipping Master, business of Seamen's employment offices and function of National Welfare Board for seafarers, provisions for rule making powers for imposition of the Board, term of office of members, procedure for conduct of business, levy of fee for providing amenities to seamen and procedure for collection and recovery of Levy fee.

3.11 Part VIII deals with passenger ships, their survey, Certificate of survey, powers of surveyor, fee, duration of survey, etc. It provides for keeping order in passenger ships specifying certain acts of persons as an offence under the act. This part also contains provision for special trade passenger ships and pilgrim ships.

3.12 Part IX of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 deals with the provisions relating to Safety.

This part gives the provisions relating to construction rules for ships, prevention of collisions, life saving appliances and fire appliances, installation of radio telegraphy radio telephony and direction finders, signaling lamp and provisions relating to stability information. The part also deals with the provisions relating to Safety Certificates, Safety equipment certificates, Safety radio telegraphy Certificates, exemption certificates, etc., provision for determining load lines, issue of load line certificates and special provisions as to ships other than Indian ships. This part also provides powers to make rules as to timber cargo, carriage of dangerous goods, grain loading plan and carriage of grain. The provisions also exists for sub division load lines, unseaworthy Ships, detention of unsafe ships and liability for cost of detention and powers to make rules to issue certificates under this part.

3.13 Part IX A Deals with Nuclear Ships which includes application or non application of certain provision of this Act to Nuclear ships, issue of Nuclear passenger and Nuclear Cargo Ship Safety Certificate and powers to make rules in this respect.

3.13.1 The review committee has suggested for inclusion of one more part – Part IX B to cover provisions for mobile offshore Drilling units – section 344 J to 344 Z. (Proposed).

3.14 Part X - This part deals with the collision, accident at sea and liability which includes provision for division of loss in case of collision, damages for personal injury etc.

3.15 Part X A - gives provision for limitation of liability of owners in case of certain damages.

3.16 Part X B – gives provision for civil liability for oil pollution damage. It embodies provisions for limitation of liability of the owner, constitution of limitation fund, consolidation of claims & distribution of fund amongst claimants, provision for compulsory insurance or other financial guarantee and rule making powers.

3.16.1 The review committee has suggested include part X C to give provision of International Oil Pollution fund Convention 1971 and its protocol.

3.17 Part XI - This part gives provision for regular method of giving helm orders, duty of master to report danger to navigation, manner of communicating reports of danger to navigations, obligation to render assistance to persons and ships in danger, etc. This part is also under amendments in accordance with the recommendations given by the review committee to include foreign flag vessels under perview, giving information by Indian ships about position, course, speed to maritime administration and provision for Indian ships to be fitted with prescribed navigational aids and equipments.

3.18 Part XI A – Prevention and containment of pollution of sea by Oil :

This part contains provision for prevention of pollution and gives powers to Central Government for prohibition as to discharge of oil and oily mixtures, inspection and control of ships to which Oil Pollution Convention applies, maintenance or Oil record book, oil reception facilities at the ports in India and powers of the Government to take measures for preventing or containing oil pollution, direction to certain ships to render assistance and levy of oil pollution cess. Rules can also be framed by the Government under the provision of this part.

3.18.1 This part does not contain provision for the action to be taken when oil is escaped. The review Committee has recommended to empower the Central Government to take appropriate action when oil is escaped.

3.19 Part XII : This part provides the provision for investigation and inquiries in shipping casualties. It gives powers to the Court for holding formal investigations, to arrest witnesses or enter the ships, to commit trial, to censure masters, mates or engineer, or to remove master. A marine board can be appointed by counselor officer if the casualty occurs at foreign waters. Central Government can cancel or suspend certificate of Master, Mate or Engineer. Constitution of court of survey, reference in difficult cases to scientific persons and investigation into explosions or fire on board of ship are the other provisions of this part.

3.19.1 The review committee has suggested to constitute a formal board of investigation headed by a judge instead of giving the matters to the court, as it is assumed that the court take too much of time in coming to a conclusion.

3.20 Part XIII - This part gives provision for matters relating to wreck and salvage. India has ratified 1989 Salvage Convention and therefore review committee has suggested that provisions of this Convention may be inserted amending Section 390, 398, 402 (1) and 404.

3.21 Part XIV - of the Act gives powers to the Central Govt. for control of Indian ships and ships engaged in coasting trade. Section 412 giving powers to fix shipping rates has already been abolished. Some relaxation have also been given under cabotage law.

3.22 Part XV – contains the provisions for sailing vessels and part XVA for fishing boats, their registry, name, inspection, certification etc.

3.23 Part XVI – gives the provisions for penalties for violation of the provisions of the Act and procedure thereof.

3.24 Part XVII` contains miscellaneous provisions for appointing examiners, powers of ship surveyor, inquiry into case of death on board the ships etc.

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