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Parliament Passes Bill To Replace 170-Year-Old Maritime Laws

A legislation which aims to establish a legal framework for consolidation of maritime laws and to confer admiralty jurisdiction on all high courts of the coastal states in the country has been passed by both the houses of Parliament.

The Admiralty (Jurisdiction and Settlement of Maritime Claims), 2017 seeks to repeal laws such as the Admiralty Court Act, 1861 and the Colonial Courts of Admiralty Act, 1890. The Rajya Sabha, the upper house, passed the Bill on Monday. The Lok Sabha had cleared it in March.

“Earlier, admiralty (shipping)-related disputes were settled under 170-year-old five statutes made under the British era. With the passage of this bill, these five statutes have been repealed,” Mansukh L Mandaviya, minister of state for road transport, highways and shipping, told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Mansukh L Mandaviya, Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping There were no clarifications in the old laws on matters related to collision of ships, wages of workers in maritime industry, salvage, charter ships, etc. This Bill paves the way for these matters.

Till date, Mumbai, Madras, Calcutta High courts had the powers to settle claims related to admirality – or shipping. After the passage of this Bill, high courts can hear admiral disputes in all the nine coastal states: Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

High courts of all the coastal states shall exercise admiralty jurisdiction over maritime claims which include several aspects not limited to goods imported as earlier, but also other claims such as payment of wages of seamen, loss of life, salvages, mortgage, loss or damage, services and repairs, insurance, ownership and lien, threat of damage to environment, etc.

“The claims can be transferred from states to states. The cases can also be heard by the Supreme Court,” said Mandaviya.

The Bill provides for prioritisation of maritime claims and maritime liens, while providing protection to owners, charterers, operators, crew members and seafarers at the same time.

It also gives highest priority to payment of wages of the seafarers. It provides for protection against wrongful and unjustified arrest and has provision for transfer of cases from one high court to the another.

. Read more on Law & Policy by BloombergQuint.