GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport And Highways
(Department of Shipping)
MERCANTILE MARINE DEPARTMENT
M U M B A I
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 History
 
A review of the progress of maritime regulations in British India brings to the fore the two facets of the issue: Development of Maritime Regulations / Acts and Changing body of Controlling Authorities through out this period. A discussion of these aspects is mutually indispensable.
 
 
Bombay, which was among the earliest British Mercantile settlements, has been the hub of shipping activities. Initially the local governments’ i.e. provincial states were dealing with shipping matters. Eventually ‘control’ duties were passed over to centralized authority of the British India Government in 1929.  The British introduced various regulations from 1799 to 1826 to control shipping activities in Indian waters culminating in Bombay Regulation XX of 1827 passed by the Governor General in Council. The Collector of Sea customs under these regulations were authorized to register, survey, transfer of registry, transfer of ownership and issue passes to the vessels. The registry was issued after carrying out necessary survey of vessels. It was made mandatory for the vessels to obtain passes while moving from one port to another.   With the growth of shipping and also with the technical development in ship building, it became necessary for the British Indian Government to introduce further system in Regulations, survey, safety of vessels at sea etc.  Accordingly, Bombay Coasting Vessels Act XI of 1838 was promulgated. This Act mainly dealt with registration of fishing vessels and harbour crafts. Master Attendant of Royal Indian Marine in Bombay and Sea Customs in other ports were authorised to register the vessels under this Act.  This Act was subsequently amended once only after the independence in 1952 by Indian Parliament as Act no. XXIII of 1952. Bombay Coasting Vessels Act, 1838 was amended as Coasting Vessels Act of 1838 when Master Attendant of Royal Indian Marine was substituted by Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department in Bombay. But in other ports Sea Customs continued to be the registering authority or other persons were appointed subsequently for such purpose by Government of India. The Coasting Vessels Act, 1838 has been applicable to Bombay Presidency only & not throughout India. This Act was intended originally for fishing vessels and harbour crafts i.e. it was not applicable in the case of other vessels.In addition to Coasting Vessels Act, the vessels could also be registered under Indian Ports Act XV of 1908, The Sea Customs Act VIII of 1878 and Public Conveyances Act VI of 1863. The pleasure boats and privately owned crafts not plying for profit were licensed under Section 7 (k) of the Indian Ports Act, XV of 1908. However, the certificate of Registry issued under these Acts were annual in nature in contrast to permanent certificate of Registry under Bombay Coasting Vessels Act, 1838.  The Acts X of 1841 and the Acts XI of 1850 laid down the procedures to be followed supplemented by documents necessary for registration of the other vessels. These Acts also laid down procedure for surveys for issue of  “passes” required for proceeding from one port to another. These passes were effective throughout India. The Act of 1856 stipulated how to procure the certificates for undertaking voyages. The certificates were to confirm the seaworthiness, fitness of engines and machinery and limits of operation of these vessels. The Act of 1841 could also register Inland Vessels. With growth of the steamship and its size, the Govt. of British India felt the need for promulgating a separate Act. The idea to have a complete and regular system of Registration of all inland vessels of all types led to legislation of ISV Act, 1917, (presently known as IV Act, 1917). This Act was exhaustive and dealt with registration, survey, construction, examination, mortgage, manning, safety equipment and so on. All maritime states in the country adopted this Act thereby regulating the self-propelled crafts operating in their territorial waters.  The large ocean going vessels built in wood & operated on sails however used to be registered under English Merchant Shipping Act of 1854. Bombay was one of the Indian ports of such registry.  It should be of interest to all concerned to know that Mercantile Marine Department, Mumbai still maintains the 1st such Register in which registration of these vessels commenced in 1856. Similarly, Inland Vessels Registers are also available with MMD, Mumbai from the year 1853.  The Master Attendant of Royal Indian Marine and the Registrar of Ships, Bombay registered its first entry of “ Dadabhoy Franjee Cama” O.No.30521 owned by a Parsi Merchant of Bombay in 1856. In all seven vessels were registered in 1856. The first “iron built” vessel with sails was registered in Bombay on the 15th February 1866. At a later date, Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 passed by the British Parliament on  20th August 1894 was also adopted by the British India Government. This Act governed: qualifications for owning ships, registration, obtaining Certificate of Registry, transfers, mortgages, sale, purchase of ships, transfer of registry, measurement and tonnage, Masters, seaman, certificate of competency, apprenticeship, License, supply and engagement of seamen, agreement with seamen, engagement of seamen, payment of wages, official log books, Mercantile Marine Officers, passenger and emigrant ships, survey of ships, number and accommodation to passengers, provisions, water and medical stores, medical inspection, signal and distress, load line, certificate for clearance, special shipping enquiries, courts, wreck and salvage, pilotage, light house, mercantile fund, legal proceedings, life saving and fire fighting equipments etc.
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Under this Act, in United Kingdom, the Chief Officer of Customs was the Registrar of Ships. The Commerce department in India, under this Act was made responsible for the Safety of Shipping and was to perform the functions of Board of Trade of United Kingdom. In United Kingdom, the Board of Trade controlled complete Shipping regulations, and related activities.  Indian Merchant Shipping Act of 1923 was passed on 2nd April for first time in India by the Legislative Department of British India Government. By Act of 1928, Ship Surveyors were appointed at Bombay and Calcutta to approve and certify the position of a disc on ship’s side indicating the load line and any alterations thereof. By Act of 1930, the regulations for preventing collisions at sea and rules as to signals of distress were introduced. In 1935, another Indian Merchant Shipping Act was passed to suit the Indian situation.  All these Acts and various, amendments from time to time stipulated the regulations for registration, survey, examinations, safety of life at sea, collisions, life saving and fire fighting equipment and so on, as per the changes then taking place and also as adopted in United Kingdom.  After Independence, the Indian Government, consolidating the earlier amendments and alternations, passed Indian Merchant Shipping Act of 1958. Though this was the main Merchant Shipping Act, further amendments were made to suit the current scenario. The various Acts of 1838, 1841, 1850, 1923, 1946, 1947 and 1949 were amended and / or repealed then.  As regards Registrar of Ships, the Collectors of Sea Custom were the authority prior to Bombay Coasting Vessels Act, 1838. Subsequently Master Attendant of Royal Indian Marine was assigned the job of registration and survey. In about 1862, post of Port Officer(s) was created to take over registration of ships, surveys and other shipping matters. At Bombay, formation of Bombay Port Trust in 1879 led to Port Officer(s) coming under their direct employment.  The Port Officer performed the following duties:Registration of ships, Survey for registration, passenger ships, load line, certifying officer for native passenger and pilgrim ships, appointment of inspectors of lights and fog signals for collision and life saving appliances, detaining officer for unsafe ships, wireless telegraphy inspectors, scientific references, examination for Certificate of Competency of Masters, Mates, Engineers and Engine drivers, notices, investigations and reports into explosions, receivers of wreck salvage etc.In a conference held at Delhi in 1924, it was decided to bring together all the isolated establishments dealt with Shipping & Navigation, which were scattered around India under various local governments, into a single department under an administrative head. It was proposed in the conference to appoint a Director, Mercantile Marine Department. However at a later date, designation of Director was substituted by  ‘Principal Officer’ keeping in line with the provision in the “Board of Trade” of United Kingdom.  With the growth of shipping tonnage and trade, the Government of India decided to form a separate shipping regulatory body similar to that of Board of Trade. Till about 1861, the Registration, Surveys were handled by the Master Attendant of Royal Indian Marine and after 1862 the same was transferred to Port Officer. Later, A Nautical Adviser and a Chief Surveyor were appointed, stationed in Delhi to oversee the various shipping functions and implementation of Merchant Shipping Acts. 
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In 1929, it was decided to set up Mercantile Marine Departments and to divide the coast of India into districts based on major ports and to place each district in charge of Principal Officer. Accordingly, Mercantile Marine Departments were set up simultaneously in Calcutta, Rangoon, Madras, Karachi and Bombay.  The main functions of the Mercantile Marine Departments include Administration of the various Merchant Shipping Laws and Rules relating to the Registration, tonnage measurement and crew accommodation of ships, surveys for  Safety of Ships, Load line inspection, enquiries into shipping casualties and wrecks, holding of examinations for Certificates of Competency, survey of passenger ships, inspection and approval of statutory equipments vis-à-vis Life Saving and Fire Fighting, Appliances, communication equipment and other Navigational Aids, detention of overloaded and or unsafe ships, supervision of ship repairs and construction of new vessels at request of State and Central Government Agencies. Additional functions originated over last one decade include mandatory Port State Control, obligatory Flag State Implementation, Safety Management Audit, Ship/Port facility security audit and implementation of a host of other new IMO instruments including STCW’95 amendment.  First Principal Officer for Mercantile Marine Department, Mumbai appointed on  1st February, 1930 was E.V.Whish O.B.E, Commander L.S.Wadeson of Royal Indian Marine was appointed as Nautical Surveyor also with effect from 01.02.1930. Capt.Whish had earlier served as Port Officer in Bombay. Till he took over as the Principal Officer, Capt.E.V. Whish had been registering the vessels in his capacity as Port Officer. The last Ship registered by Capt.Whish, as Port Officer was Dayavati, Official No.153812, on 16.12.1929.     The first vessel that was registered by the Mercantile Marine Department was “KALAVATI”, Official No.144930 on 17.06.1930. The vessel belonged to Captain Socrates Andrade, Master Mariner, Khar, Bombay. This vessel was in operation till 1939. The Japanese seized this vessel in 1939 during the 2nd World War operations.British Officers continued to hold the post of Principal Officer of Mercantile Marine Department, Bombay even after independence, the last of them being  Capt(E) A.B.Collins, I.N. The first Indian Officer, Shri.B.K.Gupta was appointed as the   Principal Officer on 06.10.1951. From 1930 till date, in all thirty-three persons have been appointed or have hold charge of post Principal Officer of MMD, Mumbai, first ten of them were British nationals.  The three districts of Mercantile Marine Department of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai were brought under a centralised controlling authority for setting up policy, rules under Ministry of Shipping of Govt.of India in 1949, when the Directorate General of Shipping was formed.  Presently, the Mercantile Marine Department, Mumbai district has three sub-offices at Jamnagar, Goa & Kandla and in addition an exclusive Examination Centre at Noida (New Delhi) which are manned by highly qualified officers from different disciplines of Maritime professionals. As stated earlier, MMDs attend to all statutory duties bestowed upon them under Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 under auspice of Directorate General of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping which also include attending to all international obligations to IMO mandatory instruments at field level for Indian Maritime Administration.
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