Inland Vessels Bill, 2021


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    Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, which will replace the Inland Vessels Act, 1917.


    Major Highlights of the Bill 

    • A Total 4,000 km of inland waterways have been operationalised. 
    • The key feature of the Bill is a unified law for the entire country, instead of separate rules framed by the States. 
    • The certificate of registration granted under the proposed law will be deemed to be valid in all States and Union Territories, and there will be no need to seek separate permissions from the States
    • The Bill provides for a central database for recording the details of vessel, vessel registration, crew on an electronic portal.
    • It requires all mechanically propelled vessels to be mandatorily registered. 
    • All non-mechanically propelled vessels will also have to be enrolled at district, taluk or panchayat or village level.
    • The Bill will regulate safety, security and registration of inland vessels.

                                                     Image Courtesy: ET

    Aims and Objectives

    • To promote economic and safe transportation as well as trade through inland waterways and bring uniformity in the application of the law.
    • To provide the safety of navigation, protection of life and cargo, and prevention of pollution that may be caused by the use or navigation of inland vessels.


    Inland Water Transport (IWT) in India

    • India has an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks. 
      • It has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways which comprise rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. 
      • Its operations are currently restricted to a few stretches in the Ganga-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.
        •  Freight transportation by waterways is highly underutilized in the country as compared to developed countries.
        •  India’s hinterland connectivity is mainly based on road and rail with domestic waterways— both coastal shipping and inland waterways—playing a limited role. 
    • The National Waterways Act, 2016 has declared 111 inland waterways as ‘National Waterways (NWs) in the country to promote shipping and navigation on them. The total length of NWs is 20,275 km spread across 24 states in the country. 
    • Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), is an autonomous organization constituted on 27th October 1986 under the Inland Waterways Authority of India Act, 1985. 
      •  IWAI is primarily responsible for the development, maintenance and regulation of those waterways which have been declared as NWs under the National Waterways Act, 2016. 
      • The head office of IWAI is at Noida, UP. The policy guidelines and directions issued by IWT Wing are implemented by IWAI.
    • Significance  
    • Waterways are found to be cost-effective as well as an environmentally friendly means of transporting freight. 
    •  In India, Inland Water Transport (IWT) has the potential to supplement the over-burdened railways and congested roadways. 
    •  In addition to cargo movement, the IWT sector also provides a convenient function in related activities such as carriage of vehicles {on Roll-on-Roll-off (Ro-Ro) mode of cross ferry} and tourism.


    Source : TH