India’s Accession to Bunker Convention and Amendment of Merchant Shipping Act

India’s Accession to Bunker Convention and Amendment of Merchant Shipping Act

Question: Proactive initiatives are needed for protecting the environment. GoI recently approved a proposal for India's accession to an international convention for compensation for damage caused by ship bunker oil spills and amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act to protect Indian waters from wreck hazards. Provide an overview of both.

• The Union Cabinet approved India’s accession to the International Convention on Civil Liability for bunker oil pollution damage 2001 of the IMO

• It also amend the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 to give effect to the following:

- Bunker Convention
- Nairobi Convention
- Salvage Convention

• International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001 is called the Bunker Convention

• It provides for prompt and adequate compensation for damage caused by fuel oil spills in the bunkers of ships

• Territorial jurisdiction for damage compensation extends to territorial sea and EEZs

• This convention applies to Indian vessels regardless of location and foreign flag vessels within the jurisdiction of India

• Registered owner of every vessel has to have compulsory insurance cover allowing for compensation for pollution damage to be directly handed over against the insurer

• Each ship of more than 1,000 gross tonnage should carry a certificate on board indicating it maintains insurance or financial security like bank guarantees

• DG of Shipping will also issue a certificate in foreign countries and maritime authorities there would do the same here

• Consequently, no Indian vessel will be permitted to enter or leave India sans the certificate

• Liability cover for pollution damage shall equal limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime not exceeding the amount calculated in accordance with Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976

• India is party to the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims convention and its provisions exist in the Merchant Shipping Acts and Rules
• Proposed amendments to the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 will give effect to the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention and the Salvage Convention of IMO which India has already signed

This will attain the following:

• More purposeful attitude towards wreck and salvage removal

• Protection of Indian waters from wreck hazards

• Internationally recognised and approved rules for wreck removal

• Private and public entities will be encouraged to take part in salvage operations based on adequate remuneration for services rendered to protect the environment or minimise damage

• Salvage services will be provided for saving lives, and payment of cargo or wreck should be paid on priority to other claims for salvage

• Bill provides for duties of salvor, master, and owner of the vessel

• It also provides guidelines for the Centre in the event of an environmental casualty caused by maritime incidents

• Disputes pertaining to claims are to be determined by HC

• Action on payment of salvage shall extinguish if this claim is not placed within 2 years

Facts and Stats

• Bunker Convention 2001 is in force since November 2008 in countries

• Maritime countries constituting 91% of the world shipping tonnage have signed this convention

• If India had not signed the Bunker Convention, Indian flag ships reaching foreign ports would have to approach those countries for bunker insurance compliance certificates and foreign ships visiting Indian ports are not subjected to mandatory insurance.
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