Nautical curbs

India to restrict movement of old cargo ships

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Monday 15 September 2003

-- from April 1, 2004, Indian waters will be made off limits to all crude oil carriers and product tankers that are more than 25 years old.

The Directorate General of Shipping (dgs), under the Union ministry of shipping, issued a circular to this effect on August 14. The recent notification modifies parameters that were set in June this year. The 'Guidelines for chartering oil tankers/product tankers' prescribe age caps for all cargo ships on voyages to and from any Indian port. The main objective of the move is to minimise possible environmental hazards from sub-standard vessels. "We want to avoid incidents such as the recent oil spill off Karachi," asserts K M Joseph, director, Shipping Corporation of India, Mumbai.

Discussions regarding such curbs have been on since early this year. The dgs, after consulting various members of the Indian National Shipowners' Association (insa), brought out a circular on June 11 which fixed an age limit of 25 years for foreign flagged crude oil carriers, and product and chemical tankers. For gas tankers, the stipulation was 30 years. Besides, all tankers that were more than 20 years old needed to have a minimum rating of Condition Assessment Programme 2 (cap2) for hull, machinery and cargo equipment from the International Association of Classification Societies (iacs). Norway-based Det Norske Veritas' Condition Assessment Programme is an independent verification of the actual condition of the vessel based upon detailed inspection and function testing, thickness measurements and strength calculations. It was also mandatory for all tankers to be classed with either the iacs or the Indian Register of Shipping. These guidelines were to come into force from September 1, 2003.

But subsequent to the release of the circular, the dgs decided to revise it to incorporate suggestions received from experts and the public. Under the altered rules, the 25-year age limit for crude oil and product tankers stays. Chemical and gas tankers have, however, been removed from the list. The implementation date has also been extended. These minimum criteria are not limited to just foreign tankers, but also cover Indian vessels.

"There should be a uniform policy for all ships passing through Indian waters, and the order makes no distinction between domestic and foreign ships," points out Joseph, adding: "European nations have become very strict about the age of tankers. India, too, needs to put in place its norms." A dgs official concurs, noting that the probability of obsolete vessels reaching Indian shores is higher now because many countries have imposed stringent standards.

Whereas experts and environmental groups have welcomed the step, small domestic shipping industry representatives are apprehensive. According to Naresh Saleja, deputy director general of shipping, Mumbai, "There should not be an adverse impact on the shipping industry since the decision is based on discussions with insa. We have, in fact, removed chemical and gas tankers from the latest circular." Moreover, big players such as Essar Shipping Limited and Great Eastern Shipping Company Limited are not likely to be affected as most of their fleet is new.

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