Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021

News: Parliament passed the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill 2021, which aims to replace over 90-year-old Lighthouse Act 1927, to incorporate the global best practices, technological developments and India’s International obligations in the field of Marine Aids to Navigation, to fulfill the vision of the Prime Minister, to make the legislative framework user-friendly and to promote ease of doing business.

Background:

  • The administration and management of Lighthouse and Lightships in India is governed by Lighthouse Act 1927 for safe navigation. At the time of enactment of Lighthouse Act 1927, there were only 32 Lighthouses in the then British India spread across six regions viz. Aden, Karachi, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Rangoon.
  • Post-Independence, 17 Lighthouses came under the administrative control of India, which have now increased manifold to meet the growing needs of the shipping industry. Presently, there are 195 Lighthouses and number of advanced radio and digital aids to navigation administered under the said Act.
  • As the technology evolved, systems were put in place where with the help of Radar and other sensors, vessels were advised from shore about the position and thus Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) came into existence and found wide acceptability. These modern, technologically improved aids to marine navigation systems have changed their profile from a ‘passive’ service to that of ‘passive as well as interactive’ service.
  • Lighthouses have also been globally identified as a major tourist attraction due to scenic location, typical architecture and heritage value.
  • The need for enactment of a new Act is necessitated to provide an appropriate statutory framework which reflects the modern role of marine aids to navigation and to be in compliance with India’s obligations under International Conventions.

Salient Features of the Bill:

  • Its main objectives are Incorporating the global best practices and technological developments, Complying with India’s International obligations in the field of Marine Aids to Navigation, Making the legislative framework user-friendly and Promoting ease of doing business.
  • The Bill applies to the whole of India including various maritime zones including territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone.
  • It defines aid to navigation as a device, system or service, external to vessels, designed and operated to enhance safe and efficient navigation of individual vessels and vessel traffic.
  • Vessel traffic service means a service implemented under the Act to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and to protect the environment.
  • The Bill provides that the Central government shall appoint a Director General, who will inter alia advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation.
  • It also provides for appointments of Deputy Director Generals and Directors for districts.
  • The Bill empowers the Central Government to 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.
  • It comprises a new schedule of offences, along with commensurate penalties for obstructing and damaging the aids to navigation, and non-compliance with directives issued by the Central Government and other bodies.

Significance:

  • The new Act will facilitate harmonized and effective functioning of aids to marine navigation and Vessel Traffic Services along the Indian coastline. The benefits include:
  • Improved Legal Framework for Matters related to Aids to Navigation & Vessel Traffic Services and covers the future developments in the field of Marine Navigation. Management of ‘Vessel Traffic Services’ for enhancing the safety and efficiency of shipping and to protect environment.
  • Skill development through Training and Certification for the operators of ‘Aids to Navigation’ and ‘Vessel Traffic Services’ at par with International standards. Auditing and Accreditation of Institutes to cater to the need of Training and Certification at par with global standards.
  • Marking of “Wreck” in general waters to identify sunken / stranded vessels for safe and efficient navigation.
  • Development of Lighthouses for the purpose of education, culture and tourism, which would tap the tourism potential of coastal regions and contribute to their economy.