New ship hiring guidelines may not be effective

New ship hiring guidelines may not be effective

Mumbai: Adraft proposal by India’s maritime regulator to check older and sub-standard ships from calling at its ports to avert potential accidents excludes ships hired by foreign entities and will therefore not be successful unless the ports themselves put a ban on the entry of such vessels.

Cautionary note: Cargo ships at the Mumbai port. The new eligibility draft rules are unlikely to deter substandard ships, particularly foreign-registered older ships, from operating, fear some

The eligibility criteria that the DGS plans to impose also includes mandatory safety rating given by the Indian Register of Shipping, an independent rating agency, for crude oil and petroleum product tankers because of the huge environmental cost associated with tackling any spillage of oil or petroleum products. And they mandate that bulk carriers and offshore support vessels should have undergone inspection and rectification of deficiencies of hull, machinery, safety appliances and operational requirements before they enter Indian territorial waters to enhance maritime safety.

Such requirements have been enforced in the US, the UK, Australia and all crude oil loading ports.

The new rules will deter substandard ships, particularly foreign-registered older ships, from operating on Indian coast, says U.C. Grover, director, technical and offshore services division at state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd. “Shipowners will be required to maintain very high standards for trading. Otherwise, they will fade out," he says.

Changing the ship hiring rules could be easier, but implementation is the issue, says T.V. Shanbhag, who headed the union government’s chartering division in the shipping ministry for 10 years till 2005. That’s because most of the contracts signed by Indian companies, government departments, or others, for buying and selling goods puts the responsibility of shipping the cargo on the foreign sellers and buyers.

“Not more than 15-20% of the ships coming to Indian ports for loading and unloading cargo are hired by Indian entities with the permission of the director general of shipping," Shanbhag adds.

“In such circumstances, what is it they are trying to control?" asks Shanbhag.

“If, instead, all the ports say that vessels of a certain age cannot call during a certain period, or the committee recommendation for tightening of surveys and inspections of ships is enforced, that will have a greater impact on restricting older and substandard ships from calling at Indian ports. Merely changing the ship hiring guidelines may not serve the purpose for which it is intended," he says.

The shipping ministry had set up a committee in July this year to suggest measures for averting marine casualties following a rise in accidents in and around Indian waters.

On analysing the accidents over the last three years, the panel found a high correlation between age of ships and the breakdowns that led to these accidents. Accordingly, it recommended revising guidelines to restrict the age of ships plying in Indian waters during rough weather (15 May to 30 November) and to make surveys and inspections of ships more stringent.