Parliament has passed the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 with Rajya Sabha approving it today amid din. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill. The legislation is to replace the Inland Vessels Act, 1917. The bill seeks to introduce a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation across the country. It provides for a central database for recording the details of vessel, vessel registration and crew on an electronic portal. The bill defines mechanically propelled inland vessels to include ships, boats, sailing vessels, container vessels and ferries. The government will prescribe the classification, standards of design, construction and crew accommodation and type and periodicity of surveys. Construction and modification of such vessels will require prior approval of a designated authority. To operate in inland waters, all such vessels must have a certificate of survey and a certificate of registration.
The legislation also provides for a development fund which will be utilised for various purposes including emergency preparedness, containment of pollution and boosting inland water navigation. Each state will constitute such a development fund. It empowers State Governments to delegate certain functions related to non-mechanically propelled inland vessels to their local governments.
The bill was passed after a brief discussion amid uproar. Speaking on the bill, Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal highlighted its importance and features. Mahesh Poddar of BJP, Prasanna Acharya of BJD, M. Thambidurai of AIADMK and others supported the bill. K. Ravindra Kumar of TDP, Banda Prakash of TRS and other members also spoke on the bill.