“It is our duty to ensure maritime security and safety. This is also for the safety of our economic interests.”
– Narendra Modi
Maritime law is a body of laws, conventions, and treaties that govern private maritime business, nautical matters, shipping and the offenses occurring in the open waters. The maritime laws in India cover within its boundaries carriage of goods by sea, marine insurance, the law of marine pollution, custom and port laws etc. As 90 percent of export and import is carried by ships in India, it was necessary for the Parliament to come up with codified legal provisions to facilitate smooth movement of goods to and fro India.
History of Maritime Laws
India has a glorious maritime history much before the rise of European maritime powers. British laws were applicable to the Indian ships as they were required to be registered under UK Merchant Shipping Act. Britishers passed many legislations to deal with maritime like The Indian Registration of Ships Act, 1841 (as amended in 1950); Admiralty Offences(Colonial) Act 1849, The Indian Ports Act, 1908,The Indian Merchant Shipping Act, 1923, Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1925,The Bombay Coasting Vessels Act, 1938, The Merchant Seamen (Litigation) Act 1946. After independence, the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 was passed and amended in 2014. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1925 is also an essential legislation in the field of Maritime Laws
Related Acts and Statutes
The object of the law
The object of Merchant Shipping Act is to consolidate the laws relating to merchant shipping, to ensure the efficient maintenance of Indian Mercantile marine and to provide for the registration of Indian ships. The object of Multi-modal Transportation of Goods Act is to provide for the regulation of the multi-modal transportation of goods, from any place in India to a place outside India, on the basis of a multi-modal transport contract. Marine Insurance Act was passed to codify the law relating to marine Insurance.
Major Points and Issues of Discussion
In this case, the issue of importance was that whether or not the foreign vessels or foreigners are outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts?
It was held by the Supreme court that the jurisdiction of Indian courts extends to territorial waters and Indian Parliament has no authority to legislate on foreign vessels and foreigners on high seas. No Foreign vessel and foreigners are deprived of their rights and liabilities by any Indian statute unless it is provided that the foreign vessel entered the territorial waters and thus falling within the territorial jurisdiction of India.
The issue was about the dismantling of a foreign ship in India.
Court held that several foreign ships are entering India only for the purpose of ship breaking and thereby leading to health hazards. Thus, Court cast the duty on state Government and other concerned authorities like state Maritime Board to regulate the entry of ships to India if the purpose of its entry is ship breaking.
In India, a claimant has to file a substantive suit in the concerned admiralty court when the vessel is within the territorial limits. It will enable the arrest of the defendant’s vessel in respect to the maritime claim. The defendant may furnish the security for the release of the vessel. Once the vessel is arrested, the defendant has to produce himself before the court for further trial.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran v. m. Mehrab and others, It was held by the court that even if there exists an agreement to refer the dispute to arbitration between the parties. The claimant can approach the High Court for the arrest of the vessel and Court is empowered to order such arrest.
Sale deficit suit is a peculiar type of suit which is faced by the carrier’s agent in India from the major ports.
Maritime laws play an inevitable role in the development of the country as it is one of the areas from which our country generates revenue for the purpose of economic development. It is a developing area of law in India as well as outside India. India has to make some laws relating to the seaworthiness of the vessel so that export and import can be facilitated through sea inside as well as outside India. Strict regulations must be made against foreign ship breaking in India.