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Inland Vessels Bill, 2021


The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, was passed in the din without debate in the Lok Sabha.


GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Inland Canals and Waterways in India
  2. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)
  3. Legislations regarding Inland Waterways in India
  4. Inland Vessels Bill, 2021

Inland Canals and Waterways in India

  • India has an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks. The total navigable length is 14,500 km (9,000 mi), out of which about 5,200 km (3,200 mi) of river and 4,000 km (2,500 mi) of canal can be used by mechanized crafts. About 44 million tonnes (49,000,000 short tons) of cargo are moved annually through these waterways using mechanized vessels and country boats.
  • Cargo transported in an organized manner is confined to a few waterways in Goa, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. Inland waterways consist of the Ganges-Bhagirathi-Hooghly rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Barak river, the rivers in Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, inland waters in Mumbai and the deltaic regions of the Godavari-Krishna rivers.
  • As per the National Waterways Act, 2016, 111 water ways have been declared as National Waterways (NW) and these National Waterways pass through 24 states and two union territories, with an approximate total length of 20274 km.

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI)

  • Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the statutory authority in charge of the waterways in India, constituted under IWAI Act-1985 and headquartered in Noida, UP.
  • It does the function of building the necessary infrastructure in these waterways, surveying the economic feasibility of new projects and also administration.
  • The Authority primarily undertakes projects for development and maintenance of Inland Waterway Terminal infrastructure on National Waterways through grant received from Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Road Transport and Highways.

Legislations regarding Inland Waterways in India

  • The Inland Waterways Authority of India Act, 1985: The Act provides for the constitution of an Authority for the regulation and development of inland waterways for purposes of shipping and navigation and for matters related to it (IWAI). The Inland Waterways Authority of India was formed in 1986.
  • Indian Vessels Act of 1917 (amended in 2007): It deals with the survey and registration of inland vessels, removal of obstructions in navigation, carriage of goods and passengers, prevention and control of pollution etc.
  • Inland Water Transport Policy 2001: Policy talks about IWT being economic, fuel-efficient and environment friendly mode of transport. It advocates large-scale private sector participation both for creation of infrastructure and for fleet operations.
  • National Waterways Act 2016: The Act declared 111 rivers or river stretches, creeks, estuaries as National (inland) Waterways. It enables the Central Government to regulate these waterways for development with regard to shipping, navigation and transport through mechanically propelled vessels.

Inland Vessels Bill, 2021

  • The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 seeks to do away with separate rules framed by the States and instead incorporate a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation across the country.
  • The Inland Vessels Bill 2021 provides 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.
  • The registration certificate provided under the new law will be considered valid all over the country and there will be no need of separate permissions from the states.
  • The bill provides that all such vessels must have a registration certificate and survey certificate to operate in inland waters. The registration certificate will be valid across India. The survey certificates will be given by state governments. 
  • Under the law, the centre will prescribe the classification, standards of design, construction, and crew accommodation and type and periodicity of surveys for these vessels. The Bill also defines mechanically propelled inland vessels to include boats, ships, container vessels, sailing vessels and ferries
  • The bill also proposes that the vessels will have to follow certain specifications for signals and equipment to ensure navigation safety. This would be specified by the central government. 
  • The bill proposes that all accidents aboard such vessels must be reported to the head officer of the nearest police station and to the state government-appointed authority. The state may require the District Magistrate to inquire into such matters and submit a report recommending actions to be taken.
  • The Bill also states that all vessels will be required to discharge or dispose of sewage, as per the standards specified by the centre.
  • The Inland Vessels Bill 2021 also provides to set up a development fund that will be utilised for various purposes such as for emergency preparedness, containment of pollution and boosting inland water navigation. 

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024