Why are overage ships with improper documents being chartered for Indian ports?

New questions are cropping up everyday over the Rak Carrier and Pavit, but nobody is giving any answers; and all this is happening in the region of India’s biggest naval base

As the issue of oil from the tanks of the MV Rak Carrier and the MT Pavit start reaching the coastline and bays, as well as estuaries around Mumbai, the issues of the documentation around the two ships starts getting even murkier, as does what appears to be a combined effort to cover-up. The fact remains, however, that unlike in the case of the similarily overage MSC Chitra, where a specific collision caused very specific damage to the ship before it went down more or less intact by way of oil tanks and other spaces, in the case of the Rak Carrier a progressive breakup is going to create havoc, and in the case of the Pavit the complete mystery of how a ship that was allegedly sinking landed up off Mumbai with oil drums lashed and intact on deck is going to need more forensic capabilities than shown so far.

As seafarers all over the world know, the first thing that goes adrift and overboard, breaking loose from any restraint whatsover, are the lubricating and hydraulic oil drums stored on deck, simply because they are the most exposed items on deck. In the case of the Pavit, despite everything reported, the sight of oil drums merrily standing neatly made fast on deck is in itself as miraculous as, for example, the fact that the ship itself did not sink after being abandoned.

However, it is what appears to be a multiple cover-up in the case of the Rak Carrier that nurtures astonishment of a degree which is doing more than lifting eyebrows all over. This is over and above what appears to be a fairly well planned evacuation from the ship, to use a polite word, leaving it to sink at a location where it will cause yet some more hazards to marine life as well as other passing traffic. All this in the biggest naval base in India.

Consider this:

# The chief officer of the Rak Carrier, in an interview on TimesNow television, claimed that the ship had arrived in Mumbai as early as 12th July, and then took stores as well as fuel while anchored off Mumbai. How she managed this in the monsoons in the first case and without customs or immigration formalities in the other, is something that needs to be responded to. So far, there's been deep silence. Immigration comes under the Intelligence Bureau, so it is not possible to get this information under the Right to Information Act and as for customs it is absolutely likely that the ship simply did not inform the Indian Customs.
# There is still no response from anybody—neither the owners, nor charterers, or cargo interests, or the Directorate General of Shipping, or whoever-on what class this ship carries and who was responsible for declaring in the statement from the Press Information Breau that she was under Lloyd's Register, when Lloyd's themselves have published that they withdrew class in November 2010. How a ship was chartered in with cargo for India when she was not only very overage, but also without class is not being explained. Again, deep silence.
# The Maharashtra police have, as per reports, filed for "negligence" under the Indian Penal Code. This is about as easy as it gets, though prima facie, this epsiode smacks of criminal conspiracy, fraud and attempt to destroy evidence. There is no information on whether the ship's staff brought the hard discs of the various logs and data recorders on board, though they seem to have had time to get their packed bags, computers, personal documents and more.

# From the environmental point of view, it is amply clear that this is much more than just a state government issue. The impact of this specific pollution is going to be what it is, but it will embolden others to come and do what they want within India's economic zone, whether it is fishing or dumping oil and other pollutants. In addition, there is a national security angle, which again goes beyond the singular purview of the state. When are the central investigative agencies going to step in?

# A gazette notification was published on 29 December 2005 instructing all parties that ships bringing cargoes into India are to adhere to certain simple logical compliances as far as insurance and other related issues like pollution and wreck removal are concerned. This gazette notification was kept in abeyance soon thereafter, without any explanation why, on 2 August 2006. Here is the notice.

The text of the Gazette of India notification no. 403 dated 20 September 2005 is reproduced hereunder.

" G.S.R. 600(E) - In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6 of the Indian Ports Act, 1908 (15 of 1908), the Central Government hereby makes the following rules to regulate the entry of vessels into Ports, namely:

1. (1) These rules may be called the Entry of Vessels into Ports Rules, 2005.
(2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.

2.   Insurance cover:
Owner of a vessel entering a Port shall have to produce an insurance cover for compensation in relation to:
(i) Wreck removal expenses;
(ii) Pollution damage caused by spillage of oil or any hazardous and noxious substances; from a Protection and Indemnity Club which is a member of an International Group of Protection and Indemnity Club or a Club duly approved by the Central Government.

3. The vessel which fails to produce the insurance cover referred to in rule 2 shall not be allowed to enter the Port:
Provided that the provisions of these rules shall not be applicable to a non Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) Convention vessel if the owner of the vessel furnishes an undertaking for compensation to the port in connection with expenses which port may incur on removal of wreck and pollution damages caused.

4.  Explanation: 
Non Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) ships means a cargo ship with less than 500 gross tonnage (GT) and includes a ship engaged on domestic voyage, a domestic passenger ship and other small ship being used as fishing vessel and tug." {break}
However, on 2 August 2006, the same ministry deemed it fit to issue another gazette notification:
"The entry of vessels into Port Rules 2005 published in the extraordinary gazette dated September 20, 2005, vide No. G.S.R. 600(E) under Section 6 of the Indian Ports Act 1908 (15 of 1908) is kept in abeyance with immediate effect until further order of the Central Government of India".
That gives all of us an idea of the real direction that the central government is taking in context with the issue of insurance, or lack of insurance thereof, for ships visiting Indian ports.
Another circular/notification from the Directorate General of Shipping on the subject of overage ships, especially during the monsoons, is reproduced in its entirety, and nothing more need be said about the subject. It is another fact and truth that overage ships of all sorts regularly visit Indian ports, for what is known as "commercial considerations", of all sorts.
Shipping Development Circular No.1 of 2008

NO: SD-9/CHRT(82)/97-IV          Dated  25.04.2008                                                                               
Subject :  Revised guidelines for chartering of vessels under Sections 406 and 407 of Merchant Shipping Act ,1958.

Concerned by the rising trend of marine accidents in and around Indian waters especially during rough weather, the Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways set up a Committee in July, 2007 to suggest urgent measures to reduce marine casualties.  Since analysis of the accidents over the last 3 years showed a significant correlation between age of vessels and the break-downs which caused these casualties, the Committee recommended, inter-alia, the revision of guidelines to restrict the age of vessels plying in Indian waters and a tighter regime of surveys and inspections.
2. Accordingly, in the interest of maritime safety, it has been decided to modify existing guidelines for chartering of vessels under Sections 406 and 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 (M S Act).  Existing  DGS Circulars Nos. 7 of 2003 dated 11.06.03 and 8 of 2003 dated 14.08.2003 (read with clarifications vide Memorandum dated 21.11.2003 and 31.12.2003), restrict only the charters of tankers to those which are less than 25 years (30 years in the case of gas carriers) and are CAS and CAP-2 rated and classed with IACS.
3. It is now further decided, after taking into consideration the views and objections of a wide range of stakeholders, that, with effect from 15th May 2008, applications for permissions for chartering in / grant of licence to vessels under Sections 406 and 407 of the MS Act either for single or specific voyages or time charters that enable vessels to visit an Indian port or to ply in Indian territorial waters or the Indian EEZ will be entertained only as follows:

3.1 During the period of foul weather, being 1st June till 31st August in the Arabian Sea along the West Coast and 1st May till 30th November in the Bay of Bengal along the East Coast of the Indian Peninsula:

3.1.1 From all cargo vessels - other than gas carriers, oil or product tanker and   dredgers - only if they are less than 25 years of age. 

3.1.2 From gas carriers, only if they are less than 30 years of age.

3.1.3 From oil or product tankers, only if they are double hull or if single hull, less than 20 yrs and fulfilling the Condition Assessment Scheme (CAS) requirements as assessed by the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) or Classification Societies that are notified as Recognized Organizations by the Government.   Consequently, SD Circulars 7 and 8 of 2003 giving guidelines for chartering of oil and product tankers will stand modified accordingly for the period of foul weather.

3.1.4 For all time charters of vessels other than passenger vessels, to be entered into with effect from 15th May, 2008, which include in the period of charter any period of foul weather, only if the age of the vessel proposed is less than 25 years at the time of termination of the charter period.
3.2 Regardless of the period of the year - from Offshore Service Vessels (OSVs) of all description (e.g. anchor handling tug, accommodation barge, tug, supply vessels, support vessels, barges, pontoons, etc.) or any other type of vessels which are chartered-in / engaged for the purposes of  plying in and around offshore oil exploration areas and / or where security/safety sensitivities are high, only from those that are less than 25 years old, are classed with the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS); and    have undergone inspection and rectification of deficiencies of hull, machinery, safety appliances and operational requirements (e.g. manning, etc.) before entry into Indian territorial waters.

4. All shipping companies, exporters, importers and agents may kindly take note of the change in eligibility of vessels for consideration of grant of chartering permissions and amend their own chartering terms, practices and instructions accordingly.

5. This issues with the approval of the Director General of Shipping and Ex-Officio Additional Secretary to the Govt. of India.

(Samuel Darse)
Deputy Director General of Shipping


NO: SD-9/CHRT(82)/97-IV    Dated 13.05.2008

Subject : S.D. Circular No.01 of 2008 - Clarifications regarding

This Directorate has been receiving numerous correspondences seeking clarifications on Shipping Development Circular No. 01 of 2008 dated 25.04.2008 issued by this Directorate regarding revised guidelines for chartering in  of vessels under Section 406 and 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. The matter has been examined further and it is clarified as follows:-

1. The said Circular does not apply to Indian Flag Vessels, as they are registered and already licensed to ply in Indian waters.

2. The said Circular applies to all vessels chartered in under Section 406 and 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 except vessels already carrying the Indian Flag.

3. The said Circular is applicable from 15th May 2008. It therefore does not affect vessels licensed under section 406 and 407 before 15th May 2008, even, if the existing license overlaps the rough weather period. 

4. Clause 3.1.4 of the said Circular stands amended to read as follows:
 "3.1.4. For time charters of vessels other than passenger vessels, to be entered into with effect from 15th May 2008, which include in the period of charter any period of foul weather, only if the age of the vessel proposed, is less than that specified in Clause 3.1.1, 3.1.2 and 3.1.3 for the respective category of vessel, at the time of termination of the charter period".

5. This issues with the approval of the Director General of Shipping and Ex-Officio Additional Secretary to the Government of India.

(Samuel Darse)
Deputy Director General of Shipping

Moneylife shall file the required RTI applications in these cases.

Rajiv Ahuja
1 decade ago
Pertinant questions that have to be answered by the concerned authorties.
1 decade ago
Comment from a seafarer friend:-

""Very true. these ships (20 yrs) wd not be allowed in US/European waters. they are then sent to 3rd world countries, where "for a few dollars", everything goes. i believe in the u.s you have to stop 1000 NM away and if u haven't given the coast gd 4 days notice u will not be allowed. they come on board. the crew, incl master have to fall-in on the foc'sle and almost strip searched, cabins, documents, and cargo checked. Also lets not forget, the US is a "martial state", where one in four people are actively involved with the defence/armament industry. There soldiers and sailors are respected and well paid. Unlike India where the the politicians and most bureaucrats haven't a clue of matters relating to the defence of the country. (They are too busy raking in the bucks.) Ofcourse if this were to be done in india, the govt would have to greatly increase the defence and coast guard's budget and acquisitions, which they are not willing to do.

Our own indian co. merchant vsls are no better. driven like mules till they break down! Captains have nightmares handling these 'derelicts' near the oil installations, where a small mistake/machinery failure could lead to a major accident.

food for thought.""
ready steady go
1 decade ago
It will be very interesting to know how many people who previously worked in dg shipping or mmd are now on the payroll of the multiple foreign class societies insurance companies flag of convenience states and similar. for example panama shipping office in mumbai is a pure commercial enterprise but works on diplomatic basis and hires a few likewise others. this is bigger than dgca scam but who will speak. just do tally of ships in port today for indian ports and see how many are overage. jigri pugri karta hai.
Replied to ready steady go comment 1 decade ago
Thank you for writing in.

Personally, I think that if a DGCA style investigation is done on the various aspects of DGS, then the results will be even more revealing. From the examination and training system all the way up to ship inspection/registration and shipping development . . . nothing is sacred anymore and everything goes - or so it seems.

Even now, the responses from DGS are amazing, to say the very least.

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