The Parliament passes landmark ‘Inland Vessels Bill, 2021’

Introduction: The Act stipulates for the administration of inland vessel navigation by states, including the registration of vessels, protection and carriage of passengers, inland water limits, survey, certificate of competency, licensing of masters and crew, the investigation into casualties, insurance against the third party, and prevention of pollution that may be caused by the use or navigation of inland vessels. The Bill explores to introduce a consistent regulatory structure for inland vessel navigation crosswise the country.


The new law will substitute the century-old Inland Vessels Act of 1917 for the administration of security, the safety as well as certification of inland vessels. About 14,500 Kms navigable waterways are present in India. India is constantly developing the waterways by initiating some projects like the Sagarmala Project, Jal Marg Vikas project under the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). In addition to National waterways, Allahabad-Haldup to Stretch, and Kottapuram-Kollam Stretch, three more waterways are under development of states. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), constituted in October 1986, is the body responsible for the development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation in the country.

Salient Features of the Bill:

Extension of Inland water limits: To ensure comfortable and smooth transportation of the waters up to the maximum of wave height up to 2 meters. This will result in the extensive use of inland waterways by inland water vessels. And it was not permitted to go beyond the mentioned limits.

Mechanically propelled vessel: Inclusion of dumb barges to be towed under mechanically propelled vessels which are currently under the Inland vessels Act, 1917. It is also defined to include ships, sailing vehicles, containers vessels, boats, and ferries which clear the mechanically propelled vessel regulations included in the Bill. Construction or any kind of modification done for the listed vessels needs to be informed to the designated authority.

Division of Waterways: The waterways are divided into three zones based on wavelengths. Zone 1, Zone 2, and zone 3 refer where maximum significant wave height does not exceed 2 meters, 1.2 meters, and 0.6 meters. For smooth regulations and to facilitate the safety of vessels by the state governments.

Operations & Registrations: Extending the validity of a certificate of registration, license of the crew. To operate in inland waters, every mechanically propelled vessel must have a certificate of registration and certification of the survey. The certificate includes the zone to the extent where the vessel can operate. The vessel must have an insurance policy for the vessel, crew, and damage of goods.

Manning requirements: The center will prescribe the minimum number of people that vessels must-have for various roles. Violation of these requirements may attract a penalty of up to Rs 10,000 for the first offense and Rs 25,000 for subsequent offenses.

Benefits: The MSME’s likely to get an advantage from the new inland vessels bill, 2021, as it provides less cost compared with the Railway and Road transport. Sometimes it is faster than other Modes of transport. The government expects the new Bill will generate 40 Lakhs direct employment. With restricting regulations, there is less likelihood of accidents. Using alternative modes of transport will reduce the freight charges of Rail and other modes.

However, there are cons to this new law, inland shipping in India is seasonal, and the regulations like the minimum number of crew will affect the owners as it incurs fixed cost. The inland waterways in India are underdeveloped. Introducing new regulations will make major and minor ports in vain. 


Introducing this new inland vessels bill will help state authorities to develop further minor ports and can improve transportation for small and medium firms. It also helps to decrease the freight charges of other transport ways. However, the regulations for vessels owners need to be more careful, and doing any activity which is out of guidelines will cause them to pay penalties, and strict actions are taken against owners and crew. With this new Bill, documentation was made fast, but there are no new actions taken against fraud and misleading done by the officials.

Kattula Manikanta Pursuing B.A(H)Economics in Hansraj College, Hails from Hyderabad. Wants pursue career in Research and firmly believes that today Researchers can change the world.