Ports in India are essential for trade and transport of goods and raw materials to and from India. Ports bolster the industrialization and economic development of the nation. The government of India receives a good amount from various fees, charges, and taxes for infrastructure improvement and other governmental initiatives.
India has a history of marine trade and commerce, which has flourished because of the country’s enormous port network. The Indian Ports Act of 1908 was crucial for regulating and administering these ports. Under the British colonial era, this law was critical in determining how India’s ports were governed and developed, and it is still applicable today.
Indian Ports Act
During the British era, maritime trade and commerce activities along the country’s extensive coastline expanded rapidly. The numerous ports around the Indian coastline did not have uniform legislation and governance. Therefore, inefficiencies, disputes, and difficulties managing the expanding marine trade remained. This created a complete legal structure to control and administer Indian ports.
The British colonial authorities introduced the Indian Ports Act in 1908. The Act was enacted on 18 March 1908. This Act has a total of 69 Sections and 8 Chapters. The objective of the Act was to provide an integrated collection of rules and regulations for controlling and regulating ports in India. A set of guidelines for collecting port fees and dues are provided under the Indian Ports Act. The Ports Authority charges for various services, such as pilotage, wharfage, and mooring. This sum is gathered for port development and maintenance. The Indian Ports Act stipulates fines and repercussions for breaches such as smuggling, unauthorised access, and non-payment of dues to restore discipline and order inside ports.
Powers of the Government under The Indian Ports Act
Section 4 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 states that the government can change the Indian Ports Act or specific sections.
- The Government can extend the application of this Act to any port where it is currently not in effect or to any part of a navigable river or channel that leads to a port where this Act is not applicable.
- They can selectively apply the rules of Sections 31 or 32 to a port where these rules are not applicable.
- They can also withdraw the entire Act or specific Sections like Sections 31 or 32 from a port or a specific area within a port.
These notifications demarcate geographical boundaries to which they apply. The defined boundaries in these notifications can have various structures such as piers, jetties, landing places, wharves, quays, docks, and other public works designed to facilitate traffic, ensure vessel safety, or enhance the port’s administration.
These boundaries could include areas both inside and outside the high-water mark. However, the areas within 50 yards of the high-water mark can come under this regulation only when no private property rights are involved.
Rules For the Safety of the Shipping under the Indian Ports Act of 1908
Section 19 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 states that no person is allowed to tamper or damage any buoy, beacon, or mooring placed in a port under the authority of the government unless they have a valid reason to do so.
Any person violating this rule by interfering with these objects is liable for compensating for the damage caused. They can be liable to a fine of up to Rs 2000 or imprisonment for up to 2 years.
Section 30 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 states that without the conservator’s permission, no one can remove rocks, stones, sand, or any protective structures from the bank or shore of a port covered by this Act. Similarly, no one is allowed to sink or bury items such as mooring posts or anchors in this area unless approved by the conservator and overseen by an appointed person. Such a person can face a fine of up to Rs 100 and be held liable for repairing any damage they cause to the bank or shore.
Section 31 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 details moving vessels without permission
- Any vessel measuring 200 tons or more must have a pilot, harbour master, or assistant port officer on board when entering, leaving, or moving within the port.
- Mechanically propelled vessels below 200 tonnes and other vessels below 200 tonnes but exceeding 100 tonnes must also have a pilot or harbour master on board unless they obtain written permission from the conservator or a designated officer.
- The government can exempt certain sailing vessels from this requirement through an official notification.
- The owner or master of a vessel is obligated to have a pilot or harbour master on board, and they will be held accountable for any losses or damages resulting from the vessel or navigation errors.
- If any vessel enters, leaves, or moves within the port in violation of sub-section (1), then the master of the vessel can be held liable for fines of up to Rs 200. Suppose the master can tell the appropriate officer they could not secure a pilot, harbour master, or assistant port officer upon application. In such a case, they may be exempt from this penalty.
Port-Dues, Fees, and Other Charges Under the Indian Ports Act of 1908
Section 33 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 details the Levy of Port Dues. Port dues will be imposed on vessels entering certain ports listed in the first schedule, except for major ports. These dues will not exceed the specified amounts designated by the government for each port, which is given in the third column of the schedule.
When the government declares a port, it can specify the following:
- The types of vessels are subject to port dues upon entering the port.
- The maximum rates at which these dues may be levied on the applicable vessels.
- The times at which these vessels are liable for these charges.
Port dues leviable till now in any port will be applicable.
The order of port dues cannot be increased or introduced under this section until 30 days have passed from the date of publication of the order in the Official Gazette.
Section 35 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 talks about Fees for pilotage and other services
- On any port, not a major port under this Act, the fees can be levied for various services provided to vessels, including pilotage, hauling, mooring, re-mooring, hooking, measuring, and other such services. These fees will be set on the terms of the government.
- The current fees for these services will remain valid unless the government changes them.
- In special situations, the government can exempt vessels from some or all of the abovementioned fees.
Section 43 of the Indian Ports Act of 1908 details Port and charges. The government official responsible for issuing a port clearance for a vessel will not issue until the following:
- The vessel’s owner, master, or another responsible party must either pay or provide adequate security, as determined by the official, as well as any fines, penalties, or expenses that the vessel or its owner or master incurred under the Act.
- All expenses as per Section 207 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, which are the responsibility of the vessel’s owner since the vessel’s arrival in the port for which clearance is sought, are fully paid.
This law has historically developed international trade and maritime operations and shaped the future of ports and maritime infrastructure. Automated and digital technology is increasingly adopted by ports worldwide to increase efficiency, security, and accessibility. Changes made to the Indian Ports Act include measures for cybersecurity, data sharing, and digital documentation. Some amendments can be made to simplify customs processes, lower trade obstacles, and promote ease of conducting business at Indian ports. The Indian Ports Act of 1908 can include clauses encouraging eco-friendly measures, such as waste management, energy conservation, and renewable energy sources. The organised and prospering port system in India has set the stage for sustained economic progress for the country. Many things can be added in future dates to improve the trade aspects and growth of the nations.