As the government is thinking of setting an age limit for vessels that operate in the Indian waters to establish overall safety and protect the marine environment from contamination owing to accidents, the Indian ministry of ports, shipping and waterways is open to accepting proposals that seek additional time for the existing ships to abide by the new regulations.
Two government officials aware of the development said while the centre is planning on launching a fitness regime for vessels, it may also permit older ships to continue operating if they pass the fitness certification, allowing more time for the operators to focus on upgrading their fleets.
In a representation to Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union minister of India, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry recommended a calibrated introduction of age limits for vessels. It mentioned that strict health check rules might be formulated in consultation with the class and industry authorities for the ship above a particular cut-off age.
The industry body also added that the vessels must be permitted to function provided they meet the requirements of the health check regime. This will help incentivize firms to spend money on older ships to ensure they can operate safely.
Currently, the age limit for registering vessels operating in Indian waters is 25 years. However, there is no age restriction once the vessels are recorded. The government is striving to plug the loophole.
The discussion aims to lower the registration age and fix some age restrictions for foreign and Indian vessels operating here. Besides, the industry body has also recommended introducing a sunset clause to phase out old ships, say, three or four years from the date of the age circular coming into effect. It added that this would give vessel owners adequate time to develop contingency plans and renew their fleets.
Considering that the shipping business is capital-intensive, it might not be plausible for firms to renew fleets if they are not permitted sufficient time to replace older vessels.
If vessel operators are compelled to replace old ships within a short time, second-hand ones will be in more demand, which will be harmful to the whole industry, the lobby explained.
Per a second official, new vessels take about 18-30 months to build, based on the kind of vessel.
Hence, the sunset clause before operationalizing age limitations will give the necessary breather to ship owners.
References: Live Mint, India Shipping News