Port Rules: Key policy and regulatory developments

Key policy and regulatory developments

The ports and shipping sector is a key driver of trade in India. More than 90 per cent of India’s international cargo trading by volume is done via maritime transport. The government has taken many initiati­ves to improve port governance, augment ca­pa­city utilisation, and enhance port efficiency and connectivity.

Indian Infrastructure takes a look at some of the recent policy and regulatory developments in the sector…

Major Port Authorities Act, 2021

The Major Port Authorities Act, 2021, came into effect from November 3, 2021, to provide for the regulation, operation and planning of major ports in India and to vest the administration, control and management of such ports upon the boards of major port authorities.

The act aims at decentralising decision-making and infusing professionalism in the governance of major ports. This will empower major ports to perform with greater efficiency through full autonomy in decision-making and modernisation of their institutional framework.

The role of the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined in this act. As per the Tariff Guidelines, 2021, for public-private partnership (PPP) projects in major ports,  concessionaires at major ports are allowed to set tariffs as per market dynamics. One of the benefits of this transition to a market-linked tariff is that a level playing field will be provided to PPP concessionaires at major ports to compete with private ports. Prior to this, PPP concessionaires at major ports were constrained by having to operate under the stipulations of the TAMP guidelines, whereas private operators at non-major ports were free to charge tariffs as per market conditions.

PM Gati Shakti programme

The PM Gati Shakti programme is structured to prioritise all mega infrastructure and connectivity targets by 2024-25. It is a national master plan that is essentially a digital platform to bring 16 ministries, including the Mi­nis­try of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW), together for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects. It will facilitate last-mile connectivity of infrastructure and also reduce travel time for people.

The MoPSW has identified 101 projects for implementation by 2025 to enhance port connectivity with consumption and production centres. The objective is to reduce logistics costs, inc­rease the cargo capacity of railways, inc­rea­se port cargo capacity and reduce the turnaround time of vessels.

Marine Aids to Navigation Act, 2021

The Marine Aids to Navigation Act, 2021, replaces the Lighthouse Act, 1927. The new act aims to adopt state-of-the-art marine navigation technologies, which were not covered under the statutory provisions of the old Lighthouse Act. It will facilitate harmonised and effective functioning of aids to marine navigation and vessel traffic services along the Indian coastline.

The act provides a better legal framework for issues related to vessel traffic services and aids to navigation. It also covers future marine navigation developments, management  of vessel traffic services to enhance efficiency and safety of shipping as well as to protect the environment, development of skill through training and certification for “Aids to Navigation” as well as “Vessel Traffic Services” operators on par with global standards, auditing and accreditation of institutes to cater to the need for training and certification at par with international standards, and more.

Inland Vessels Bill, 2021

The Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, replaces the Inland Vessels Act, 1917. The bill seeks to replace the erstwhile separate rules framed by states with a uniform regulatory framework for inland vessel navigation to support the countrywide operation of registered boats, ships, container vessels, sailing vessels and ferries. The registration certificate under the new law will be considered valid all over the country, and separate permissions from states shall not be required.

The new bill will facilitate harmonised and effective regulation of inland vessels, and their seamless and safe navigation across states. The benefits of the act include uniform applicability of rules and regulations to ensure seamless, safe and economical trade and transportation through the use of inland waterways; and the prescribing of standards for classification and categorisation of mechanically propelled vessels, processes involved in the registration of vessels, identification and categorisation of special category vessels, etc., by the central government.