A tug of war between the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and the central administration exposes the ‘regulatory vacuum’ in Indian shipping that makes the industry susceptible to ‘misuse and exploitation’, the Economic Times said in a scathing report last month. The newspaper quotes industry participants saying that laws are being increasingly misused by various authorities, and takes the example of The Merchant Shipping (Regulation of Entry of Ships into Ports, Anchorages and Offshore facilities) Rules, which were notified in April last year.
Under that regulation, any vessel of three hundred tonnes gross or more- other than Indian ships in Indian waters or ports - should be insured against maritime claims. Depending on the age and type of the vessel, it should also be classed with a member of the IACS or a recognised organisation; in addition, foreign vessels in Indian waters should have valid P&I cover against maritime claims.
Unfortunately, enforcement of the regulation becomes near impossible in the absence of a dedicated agency to monitor completely the provisions for procedures under the notification. To add to the confusion, the GMB seems to interpret the rule as applying only to central-government controlled ports, the Economic Times notes. In the end, “Irrespective of the existence of the law intended to check and prohibit entry of ships of dubious nature into Indian territorial waters, ships of all types and ages are getting free way, at a cost”.
“‘The law seems to have taken out to mint money. What we are doing by making more laws is only causing more money to be made for the people concerned,’” a shipping consultant is quoted in the paper as saying.
The newspaper concludes: "There seems to be a tussle between GMB and the country's shipping administration over the implementation of the rule. And, for authorities, within (the) grey area lies the opportunity to make the fast buck”.