Merchant Shipping Act-7 (Safety, Collision, Salvage, Detention)

Disclaimer: The idea of publishing this article is to: generate positive interest in mariner about the MSA 58; and familiarize him broadly with the scope and range of the Act without going into legal intricacies.  Reader, in order to make final conclusion must refer to the Act in full with the relevant MS Rules.

Q. What is the provision in respect of collision regulations?
Ans. S-285 to S-287, deal with collision and relevant matters. Thus, the central government may make regulations in respect of colregs, lights and shapes observed by Indian ships and sailing vessels registered in India. These regulations, relating to collisions, shall be observed by all foreign ships and sailing vessels within Indian jurisdiction. If any damage to person or property arises from the non-observance by any such ship or sailing vessel of any of the collision regulations, the damage shall we deemed to have been occasioned by the willful default of the person in charge unless it is shown to the satisfaction of the court that the circumstances of the case made a departure from the regulations necessary. The central government may appoint persons to inspect for the purpose of seeing that such ships or sailing vessels are properly provided with lights, shapes and with the means of making ‘fog and distress signals’, in pursuance of such regulations.

Q. What is mentioned in Act about stability data, which must be provided to ships?
Ans. S-298 deals with the stability information and the manner in which it is to be provided. Such information about the ship’s stability should be such, as is necessary to make an accurate assessment of ship’s stability by rapid and simple means in varying conditions of service. The said information shall be in such form as may be approved by the central government (which may approve the provisions of the information in the form of a diagram or drawing only) and shall be amended suitably whenever alterations are made. The information shall be based on the determination of the ships stability by means of an inclining test of the ship. Any amendments to this will be only after re inclining her. The central government may allow the information to be based on similar determination of the stability of a sister ship. The requirement of inclining may be dispensed with for specially built ship to carry liquid or ore in bulk.

Q. What is the provision regarding Dangerous Goods?
Ans. The central government may make rules in respect of dangerous goods in ships.  Such rules may provide for the classification, packing, labeling and marking and stowing of such goods or any class of goods (including plans) and the fixing of the maximum quantity of any such class of goods which may be carried in different ships or classes of ships or other matters implementing the provisions of safety convention.

The owner, Master or agent of a ship carrying or intending to carry any dangerous goods as cargo and about to make a voyage from a port in India shall furnish in advance the prescribed particulars of the ship and the cargo to the prescribed authority. A surveyor may inspect the ship to ensure compliance. This section shall apply to foreign as well as to Indian ships in the same manner while they are within Indian jurisdiction.

Q. What is the provision regarding Grain and grain loading plan?
Ans. Grain is not permitted to be loaded onboard any Indian ship anywhere unless a valid, approved grain loading plan exists for that ship. The plan should consider loading, ‘departure- arrival conditions’ and the fittings, having regards to any special precautions prescribed by the government. The central government may request a party country to approve a grain loading plan for an Indian ship there and at the same time, approve such a plan for a foreign ship in India. Such a plan is to be regarded as a navigational document while handing over the documents.

S-332 deals with Carriage of grain. Thus, where grain is loaded on board any Indian ship anywhere or is loaded within any port in India on board a foreign ship, all necessary and reasonable precautions shall be taken to prevent the grain from shifting; and if such precautions as aforesaid are not taken, the owner or the Master of the ship or any agent shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and the ship shall be deemed for the purposes of this part to be unsafe. Where any ship which is loaded with grain outside India without all necessary and reasonable precautions, enters any port in India so laden, the owner or Master of the ship shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section and the ship shall be deemed for the purposes of this part to be unsafe.

On the arrival at a port in India from a port outside India of any ship carrying a cargo of grain, the Master shall cause to be delivered at the port to such customs or other officer as may be, a notice stating:  the draught / free board at the final port of loading; the kind of grain and quantity; the mode in which the grain is stowed and the precautions taken to prevent the grain from shifting. Any person authorised in this behalf by general or special order of the central government may, for securing the observance of the provisions of this section, inspect a ship carrying a cargo of grain and the mode in which such cargo is stowed therein. The central government may, make rules in relation to the loading of ships with grain specifying the precautions to be taken.

Q. What is the provision regarding the obligation on Master or Owner about not sending an un-seaworthy ship to sea?
Ans.  Section 334 deals with this subject about an Indian ship. The responsible person will be guilty, if due to this cause the life of any person is likely to be endangered, unless he proves that he used all reasonable means to ensure her being sent to sea in a seaworthy state or that her going to sea in such unseaworthy state was under the circumstances reasonable and justifiable.

Q. What is the obligation placed on owner of an Indian flag ship in respect of a contract with crew about seaworthiness?
Ans. In any contract of service, whether express or implied between the owner of an Indian ship and the Master or any seaman (including contract of apprenticeship), there shall be implied obligation on the owner that such owner and the Master, and every agent, shall use all reasonable means to ensure the seaworthiness of such ship for the voyage at the time when such voyage commences. They shall keep her in a seaworthy state during the voyage. Any agreement to the contrary will be null and void.

Q. In which ports, can the Central Government detain an unsafe Indian ship? How is the unsafe status decided?
Ans. Central government can detain an unsafe Indian ship in any port to which the central government may specially extend this section. Unsafe status is by reason of the defective condition of her hull, equipment or machinery, or by reason of overloading or improper loading, unfit to proceed to sea without serious danger to human life, having regard to the nature of the service for which she is intended.

Q. What procedure is followed in respect of detention?
Ans. The ship is provisionally detained for the purpose of being surveyed.  A written statement of the grounds of such detention shall be served on the Master of that ship.  CG shall either refer the matter to the court of survey for the port, where the ship is detained, or appoint some competent person to survey such ship and report thereon. Before an order for final detention is made, a copy of the report shall be served upon the Master of the ship, and within seven days after such serving, the owner or Master may appeal against such report, in the manner prescribed, to the ‘court of survey’ for the port, where the ship is detained.

Q. Who is liable to pay for the cost and damages?
Ans. If it appears that a ship provisionally detained was at the time of such detention unsafe, the owner of the ship shall be liable to pay to the central government the costs of and incidental to the detention and survey of the ship, as per sec. 338. On the other hand, as provided in sec. 337, if it appears that there was not reasonable and probable cause or default of the owner or the Master, for the provisional detention of a ship, the central government shall be liable to pay to the owner of the ship the costs of and incidental to the detention and survey of the ship. CG shall also compensate for any loss or damage sustained by him by reason of the detention or survey.

Q. Can a foreign flag ship be detained at Indian port under MSA?
Ans. Section 342 deals with the detention of a foreign ship at Indian ports. When a foreign flag ship, whilst at Indian port, is unsafe by reason of the defective condition of her hull, equipment or machinery, or by reason of overloading or improper loading, the provisions of this part with respect to the detention of ships shall apply to that ship as if she were an Indian ship.

However, particularly in case of the foreign ship:

  • a copy of the order for the provisional detention of the ship shall forthwith be served on the consular officer of the relevant country; and
  • the consular officer, at the request of the owner or master of the ship, may require that the person appointed by the central government to survey the ship shall be accompanied by such person as the consular officer may select.

If the surveyor and that person agree, the central government shall cause the ship, to be detained or released accordingly. If they differ, the owner and Master shall have the right of appeal to a court of survey. In case the owner or Master of the ship appeals to the court of survey, the consular officer, at the request of the owner or Master, may appoint a competent person to be assessor.

Q. Which part of MSA deals with collision and accidents?
Ans. Part X deals with collisions, accidents at sea and liability.

Q. What is the provision regarding division of loss in case of collision?
Ans. Whenever by the fault of two or more ships damage or loss is caused to one or more of them or to the cargo / property, the liability to make good the damage or loss shall be in proportion to the degree in which each ship was at fault as provided by sec. 345. If, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability shall be apportioned equally. Damages or loss shall include salvage or other consequent expenses.

Q. Can any ship that is involved this way, reduce or escape the liability?
Ans. These rules shall not render any ship liable for any loss or damage to which her fault has not contributed. Liability shall not be imposed on a person, if it is exempted by any contract or by any provision of law. The person has the right to lawfully limit his liability.

Q. What happens in a situation where there is loss of life? What happens when personal injury is caused by any person on board a ship owing to the fault of that ship and of any other ship or ships?
Ans. In such a situation, the liability of the owners of the ships concerned shall be joint and several. However, this shall not deprive any person of any right of defense on which, (independently of this section), he might have relied in an action brought against him by the person injured, or any person entitled to sue in respect of such loss of life. He shall continue to enjoy the right to limit his liability in cases to which this section relates and is provided lawfully.

Q. What is the duty of Master of ship to assist in case of collision as provided under MSA?
Ans. Sec. 348 and 349 deal with this subject. It states that in every case of collision between two ships, it shall be the duty of the Master or person in charge of each ship, without causing danger to his own ship, crew and passengers, if any- (a) to render to the other ship, her Master, crew and passengers, if any, such assistance as may be practicable and may be necessary to save them from any danger caused by the collision and to stay by the other ship until he has ascertained that she has no need of further assistance; and

(b) to give to the Masters or persons in charge of the other ships the name of his own ship and of the port to which she belongs and also the names of the ports from which she comes and to which she is bound.

Whenever it is practicable, the Master of each ship shall, immediately after the occurrence, enter a statement thereof and of the circumstances under which the same occurred, in the official log book. This shall be signed by the Master and also by the Mate or one of the crew.

Q. As per MSA, what precautions must be taken while giving a helm order?
Ans. MSA cautions the persons responsible on an Indian ship and directs that, when the ship is going ahead, he shall not give a helm or steering order containing the word “starboard” or “right” or any equivalent of “starboard” or “right” unless he intends that the head of the ship shall move to the “right” or not give a helm or steering order containing the word “port” or “left” or any equivalent of “port” or “left” unless he intend that the head of the ship shall move to the left.

Q. What is the Master’s duty in respect of reporting of dangers to navigation?
Ans. Master of any Indian ship on meeting with dangerous ice, a dangerous derlict, a tropical storm or any other direct danger, to navigation shall send information accordingly, by all means of communication at his disposal and in accordance with such rules as the central government may make in this behalf to ships in the vicinity and to such authorities on shore as may be prescribed by those rules. The expression “tropical storm” means a hurricane, typhoon, cyclone or other storm of a similar nature, and the Master of a ship shall be deemed to have met with a tropical storm if he has reason to believe that there is such a storm in the vicinity.

Q. What does MSA say about rendering assistance on receiving signal of distress?
Ans. Section 355 puts an obligation on Master to render assistance on receiving signal of distress. Thus, if Master of an Indian ship receives at sea a signal of distress or information from any source that a vessel or aircraft is in distress (informing them if possible that he is doing so) unless he is unable or in the special circumstances of the case considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to do so or unless he is released from such obligation.  Where the Master of any ship in distress has requisitioned any Indian ship that has answered his call, it shall be the duty of the Master of the requisitioned ship to comply with the requisition by continuing to proceed with all sped to the assistance of the persons in distress unless he is released from the obligation under the provisions. The release from obligation may be due one of the following reasons:

1. If he is informed about the requisition, to one or more ships other than his own that the requisition is being complied with by the ship or ships requisitioned.

2. If he is informed by the persons in distress or by the Master of any ship that that has reached the persons in distress that assistance is no longer required.

There is one more situation when he may not proceed to site. That is if he considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to go to the assistance of the persons in distress. He shall forthwith cause a statement to be entered in the official log book.   
The Master of every Indian ship for which an official log is required shall enter or cause to be entered in the official log book regarding every signal of distress. 

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