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Govt may give time to local vessels before fixing age limits for operation

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New Delhi: Even as the government looks to fix age limits for ships operating in Indian waters, to ensure overall safety and protect the marine environment from pollution caused by mishaps, it is mulling a proposal to give more time to existing vessels to conform to the new norms.

Government officials aware of the development said that a plan is being developed to evolve a stringent fitness regime that would allow even older ships to operate with proper health certification, thereby giving more time to the fleet operators to conform to any new age limit norms.

Industry chambers PHDCCI in a representation to Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways and Minister of Ayush Sarbananda Sonowal, suggested calibrated introduction of age limits for vessels and rather a stricter health check regime may be formulated first in consultation with the industry and class authorities for vessels that are above a certain cut-off age.

“These vessels should be allowed to operate as long as they meet the stringent health check regime. This will result in incentivizing companies to spend money on their older vessel to ensure these vessels can be operated safely as possible,” the industry body has said in its representation.

Currently, the age limit for registration of vessels operating in Indian waters is 25 years. But, there is no age restriction after registration. Government is looking to fix this loophole. The discussion is to bring down the age of registration and fix some age restriction for both Indian and foreign vessels that operate here.

PHDCCI in its representation has also suggested to bring a sunset clause for phasing out of old vessels like – three years from the date of the age circular coming into force. This will give enough time to ship owners to make their contingency plans and renew their fleets, the industry body has said.

Since the Shipping industry is very heavy capital intensive, it won’t be possible for any company to renew their fleet without giving suitable time. Giving a very short period for renewing the fleet will send the market for second-hand vessels soaring high which will be harmful to Indian Shipping Industry, PHDCCI has said.

New shipbuilding takes 18-30 months depending on the kind of ship being built. So a sunset clause before operationalising age restriction will give necessary breather to the industry.

“Irrespective of the Sunset clause, ongoing contracts with PSUs / Government Authorities, etc, as on the date of coming into force of the circular, should be allowed to be completed irrespective of the age of the vessel,” the industry body said.

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