The purpose of ease of doing business is barely being served by the new Merchant Shipping Bull introduced in the Parliament, the shipping community is learnt to have written to the Parliament. A few months ago, the Narendra Modi government decided to repeal the 58-year old Merchant Shipping Act, and introduce the new Merchant Shipping Bill. But according to information received by The Sunday Guardian, the institutes and stakeholders in merchant shipping have written to the Parliamentary committee that the bill in its present form in counter-productive for ease of doing business. “If anything, it will only hamper ease of doing business. There are so many crucial topics that have not been written about,” a former senior official of Directorate General of Shipping told The Sunday Guardian.

“While it has gone in great depths to legislate on certain topics, it has left many crucial topics without even mentioning them. That is likely to cause confusion and chaos. So we have appealed that the current bill should be repealed. We have also submitted suggestions to the Parliamentary Committee to make amends to the bill,” Captain Philip Mathews, chairman and master of The Company of Master Mariners of India, said. He discussed this on the sidelines of a seminar on “Fostering Maritime Cooperation between Seafaring Communities”, held in Mumbai recently.

Meanwhile, officials of the Indian Ship Owners’ Association are learnt to have submitted an elaborate list of amendments to the present Bill. While the association refused to share a copy of the proposed amendments, its senior officials confirmed that they had already sent a list of amendments to the parliamentary committee.

A few months ago, the Union Cabinet had approved the Merchant Shipping Bill for introduction in the Parliament. It had said that the purpose of the new legislation was to simplify the laws governing merchant shipping in India. “The provisions of the Bill will simplify the law governing the merchant shipping in India. Further, certain redundant provisions will be dispensed with and remaining provisions will stand consolidated and simplified so as to promote case of doing business, transparency and effective delivery of services,” the Union government had said in a statement issued then.

The previous Act had 560 sections. The government has trimmed them to 280. With the aim of making the legislation “futuristic” and “dynamic”, the government had added significant reforms for the augmentation of Indian tonnage promotion, development of coastal shipping in India, introduction of welfare measures for seafarers and registration of certain residuary category of vessels not covered under any statute. “The Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, had become a bulky piece of legislation over the years as a result of various amendments carried out in the Act from time to time. It was amended 17 times between 1966 and 2014, resulting in an increase in the number of sections to over 560. The one-day seminar held in Mumbai this week under the joint initiative of the Indian Navy, the Nautical Institute and the Indian Maritime Foundation, was coordinated by the Maritime Warfare Centre, provided a platform for interaction between the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Navy and Directorate General of Shipping. “With ever-increasing threats from piracy, terrorism, human and arms trafficking, the need to have Maritime Domain Awareness is paramount. Agencies can no longer work in isolation and the role of the Merchant Marine in assisting the build of Domain Awareness cannot be overemphasised,” said Vice Admiral A.K. Saxena, Director General of Naval Plans, Mumbai.

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