The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 was introduced by the Lok Sabha by the union
ministry for ports, shipping, and waterways. The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 was
introduced in Lok Sabha on July 22, 2021. It replaces the Inland Vessels Act,
1917. The Act provides for the regulation of inland vessel navigation by states
including the registration of vessels, and safe carriage of goods and
passengers. The Bill seeks to introduce a uniform regulatory framework for
inland vessel navigation across the country.
Key features of the Bill include:
Mechanically propelled inland vessels:
- The Bill defines such vessels to include ships, boats, sailing vessels,
container vessels, and ferries.
- The central government will prescribe the:
- standards of design, construction, and crew accommodation, and
- type and periodicity of surveys, for these vessels.
- Construction or modification of such vessels will require prior approval
of a designated authority, as prescribed by the central government.
- To operate in inland waters, all such vessels must have a certificate of
survey, and a certificate of registration.
- Vessels with Indian ownership must be registered with the Registrar of
Inland Vessels (appointed by the state government).
- The registration certificate will be valid across the country. The
certificate of the survey will be granted by state governments, in a form as
prescribed by the central government.
- This certificate will indicate the inland water zones (areas of
operation to be demarcated by states) for such vessels. The vessels must
also have an insurance policy to cover liability for death, injury, or
damage caused due to the usage of the vessel (including accidental
Inquiry into accidents:
- Such vessels will be required to follow certainly specifications for
signals and equipment to ensure navigation safety, as specified by the
- In case of a navigation hazard, the master of the vessel must
immediately send a danger or distress signal to other such vessels in
proximity and to the concerned state government.
- If a vessel master abstains from rendering assistance after answering a
distress call, he will be penalized with a fine of up to Rs 10,000, unless he
is unable to render such assistance on certain specified grounds.
- All accidents aboard such vessels must be reported to the head officer
of the nearest police station, as well as to the state government-appointed
- The state may require the District Magistrate to inquire into these
matters and submit a report recommending actions to be taken.
Prevention of pollution:
- The central government will prescribe the minimum number of people that
vessels must have, for various roles.
- Violating these requirements will attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 for
the first offence, and Rs 25,000 for subsequent offences.
- The central government will prescribe the standards for qualification,
training, examination and grant of certificate of competency, which
indicates the fitness of the recipients to serve in the specified roles.
State governments will grant these certificates
Database on inland vessels:
- Vessels will discharge or dispose of sewage, as per the standards
specified by the central government.
- The central government will notify the list of pollutants that will be
prohibited for discharge or disposal.
- State governments will grant vessels a certificate of prevention of
pollution, in a form, as prescribed by the central government.
- The central government will maintain an electronic centralized record of
data on inland vessels.
- These records will include information on:
- registration of vessels,
- crew and manning, and
- certificates issued.
Non-mechanically propelled inland vessels:
- The Bill provides for a development fund which will be utilized for
various purposes including (i) emergency preparedness, (ii) containment of pollution,
and (iii) boosting inland water navigation.
- Each state will constitute such a development fund.
- Sources of contribution to the fund include:
- schemes of state governments,
- stakeholders, and
- collections from sale of wreck or cargo.
- The Bill empowers state governments to delegate certain functions
related to non-mechanically propelled inland vessels to their local
- These include collating data and conducting advisory programmes for owners,
operators, and users of such vessels.
- State governments will prescribe the criteria (such as size, purpose,
age, and design) for the identification and categorization of such vessels.