The government has introduced the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 in the Rajya Sabha to replace a nine-decade-old law to pave the way for shifting from lighthouses to modern aids for marine navigation. Lok Sabha passed the Bill in March this year.
In this article, we shall study the salient features, its application, the changes the bill would bring about in marine navigation.
Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021
- The Bill repeals the Lighthouse Act, 1927 and seeks to provide a framework for the development, maintenance, and management of aids to navigation in India.
- Key features of the Bill include:
- The Bill applies to the whole of India including various maritime zones including territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone.
Aid to navigation:
- The Bill defines aid to navigation as a device, system, or service, external to the vessels designed and operated to enhance the safety and efficiency of navigation of vessels and vessel traffic.
- A vessel includes a ship, boat, sailing vessel, fishing vessel, submersible, and mobile offshore drilling units.
- Vessel traffic service is defined as a service to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and protect the environment.
Director-General of Aids to Navigation:
- The Bill provides that the central government will appoint: (i) a Director General, (ii) Deputy Director Generals, and (iii) Directors for districts (which the centre may demarcate).
- The Director General will advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation, among others.
Central Advisory Committee:
- The central government may appoint a Central Advisory Committee (CAC) consisting of persons representing the interests affected by the Bill, or having special knowledge of the sector.
- The government may consult the CAC on matters including: (i) establishment of aids to navigation, (ii) additions, alteration, or removal of, any such aids, (iii) cost of any proposal relating to such aids.
- Further, the CAC may also appoint sub-committees for additional advice on these matters.
Management of General Aids:
- The central government will be responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of all general aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.
- Its powers with regard to management of aids to navigation include: (i) establishing, maintaining, adding, altering, or removing any aid to navigation, (ii) authorising to inspect any such aid which may affect the safety of navigation, and (iii) acquiring any land as may be necessary.
Training and certification:
- The Bill provides that no person shall be allowed to operate on any aid to navigation (including any ancillary activities), or any vessel traffic service in any place unless he holds a valid training certificate.
- The central government will accredit training organizations for imparting training to, or conduct assessments of, persons in the operation of aids to navigation and vessel traffic services.
Levy of marine aids to navigation dues:
- The Bill provides that marine aids to navigation dues will be levied and collected for every ship arriving at or departing from any port in India, at the rate specified by the central government from time to time.
- The central government may wholly or partially exempt certain vessels from these dues.
- These vessels include: (i) any government ship, which is not carrying cargo or passengers for freight or fares, or (ii) any other ship, classes of ships, or ships performing specified voyages.
- Any dispute related to the marine aids to navigation dues, expenses, or costs, will be heard and determined by a civil court having jurisdiction at the place where the dispute arose.
- The central government may designate any aid to navigation under its control as a heritage lighthouse.
- In addition to their function as aids to navigation, such lighthouses will be developed for educational, cultural, and tourism purposes.
Why was such bill needed?
- India has a long coastline. There are radar beacons, GPS Navigation system to guide a ship for proper directing of the ship.
- In India there are 18 light houses which are more than 75 years old.
- There are light house districts where safe navigation is provided. Cost of Maintaining of these Light houses is also very high.