The Lok Sabha on Saturday passed the Inland Vessels Bill 2021 which was introduced in the House by Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal in the last week. Sonowal has said the Bill promotes cheaper and safer navigation, ensures protection of life and cargo and brings uniformity in application of laws related to inland waterways and navigation.
The new law replaces the century-old Inland Vessels Act of 1917 for the regulation of security, safety as well as registration of inland vessels.
What is Inland Vessel Bill?
The Inland Vessels Bill 2022 which replaces the Inland Vessls act of 1971 provides for the regulation of inland vessel navigation by states including the registration of vessels, and safe carriage of goods and passengers. The Bill which got passed in Lok Sabha today introduces a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation across the country.
However, to operate in the inland waterways, vessels will need a survey certificate, which will be issued by states.
With the new law, the centre will prescribe the minimum number of people that vessels must have, for various roles. Violation of these requirements may attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 for the first offence and Rs 25,000 for subsequent offences. The Inland Vessels Bill 2021 calls for maintaining a central database, an electronic centralised record of data on inland vessels, which will include all information about registration of vessels, vessel crew and certificates issued.
Advantages of Inland Vessel Bill:
According to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, the new bill will reduce the operational bottlenecks in interstate movement of vessels. Coastal shipping or inland shipping in India may find its niche in the form of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises that require smaller loads to be transported across the country.
The Bill seeks to incorporate unified law for the country, instead of separate rules framed by the states. The registration certificate under the new law will be considered valid all over the country, and separate permissions from States shall not be required.
The Bill also provides for a central database for recording the details of the vessels and their crew on an electronic portal.
Such vessels will be required to follow certain specifications for signals and equipment to ensure navigation safety, as specified by the central government. In case of a navigation hazard, the master of a vessel must immediately send a danger or distress signal to other such vessels in proximity and to the concerned state government. If a vessel master abstains from rendering assistance after answering a distress call, he will be penalised with a fine of up to Rs 10,000, unless he is unable to render such assistance on certain specified grounds.
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