The Indian government has decided to impose restrictions on entry of ships older than 25 years into Indian ports or its territorial waters, shipping minister G.K. Vasan told Parliament.
The move comes after a 27-year-old ship carrying coal sank 20 nautical miles off Mumbai en route to Dahej port in early August, spilling oil. The two ships that collided in Mumbai port last year were also “very old”, Vasan said. Ships more than 25 years old would be allowed entry into India’s ports only if they met certain conditions, the minister said.
The proposed norms stipulate that ships should be approved by ship classification societies that are full members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), have adequate insurance coverage for collision, wreck removal and salvage and also appoint an Indian agent to represent shipowner or charterer (hirer).
The Indian agent should provide the port authority and the customs collector the details of the ship at least 48 hours prior to its arrival, Vasan said, adding that the government will notify these rules in the next few days.
Classification societies set technical rules on safety and protection of ships, confirm that designs and calculations meet these rules, survey ships and structures during the process of construction and commissioning, and periodically survey vessels to ensure that they continue to meet the rules stipulated by the International Maritime Organization, the global maritime regulator. IACS is the global body of classification societies.
There are about 93 Indian ships over 25 years of age, the minister said. “However, they will not be affected as they are all classed with Indian Register of Shipping which is a full member of the International Association of Classification Societies.”
Experts say that age should not be a criterion for restricting entry of ships.
“You can have qualitative restrictions; but you cannot restrict entry of ships by age,” said T.V. Shanbhag, the Union government’s chief controller of chartering between 1995 and 2005, adding that some older ships are better maintained than younger fleet.
The restrictions should be based on parameters such as certification from a member of IACS, insurance from a member of the international group of protection and indemnity clubs and registration with a recognized and reputed maritime nation, according to Shanbag. India should also not discriminate between foreign and local ships while putting age restrictions, he said.