Maritime Laws in India

Maritime Laws in India: All you need to know

This article on ‘Maritime Laws in India: All you need to know‘ was written by Deeksha Kushwaha, an intern at Legal Upanishad.


Maritime Law is also known as the Law of the sea. This kind of law talks about the rules and regulations related to shipping, its protection & maintenance, insurance of ships and people, carrying goods by sea, registration, and damages to ships, etc. The transfer of goods from one country to another country has been run for ancient times. At that time, there was a need for this kind of law, and there were some laws but not in a proper way. This article will be explained all about its history and what the current laws related to maritime have been run in India.

History of Maritime law

India has a vast history with ocean and sea in ancient times. In ancient times people used to export and import spices, oil, and other necessary things, which required a proper way to export and import material. At that time root of the sea became a boon for merchants. Different text of old times asserts that numerous shippers and brokers came to India to take and give items and administrations. In this period different regulations, rules, and guidelines have been established. Which turned into a base for additional institutions.

In the colonial period, there were many acts related to sea law, which has been enacted by the British government. It is known to everyone that during the time of the colonial period, India has been under British rule. In this period some acts are given here which were enacted at the time-

  • Inland Steam Vessels Act, 1917,
  • Coasting Vessels Act, 1838,
  • Indian Ports Act, 1908,
  • Indian Merchant Shipping Act, 1923,
  • Merchant Seamen (Litigation) Act, 1946,
  • Control of Shipping Act, 1947,

In the wake of establishing these demonstrations as per time, there was a need to improve and add a few additional guidelines. In the post-Autonomy period, when India got free, the public authority of India focused entirely on sanctioning different guidelines and regulations to give protected and effective oceanic exchange.

The entirety of the demonstrations, rules, and guidelines authorized by the English government was not as indicated by the common Indian framework. In this way post autonomous, New principles and laws to further develop existing beachfront exchanging rehearses have been worked on by Indian Government.

Aside from the previously mentioned act, During the hour 1823 to 1940, Different regulations and rules administering different parts of the Indian delivery area has been presented by English regulations Including rescue, confirmation of sailors, transport obligation, proprietor’s wellbeing, line shows, and other. The High Courts of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta had the locale for the preliminary and settlement of cases connected with the Transportation and Office of the chief naval officer Acts in India.

The high court of India had more prevalent power than some other official courtrooms as per the instance of M. V. Elisabeth v. Harwan Venture and Exchanging Pvt Ltd. It was held for this situation. The Indian High Courts had been called the unhindered ward and their choices had lasted and were restricted. Because of this significant case, the Indian precedent-based regulation has been perceived as the head of the Global Show on Sea Regulations. The arrangements are given in the Shipper Transportation act 1958.

Maritime Laws in India
Maritime Laws in India

Merchant Shipping Act 1958

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958, is one of the most important acts of Maritime Law. It was the 44th enactment of the year and the date of enactment was 30th October 1958. In this act, There are 461 sections and eighteen parts. The main object of this act is to ensure the efficient maintenance of mercantile marine in a manner best suited to serve the national interests of India. Indian government shall establish a National Shipping Board to fulfill the purpose of registration, certification, safety, and security of Indian ships. Now, will discuss the important provisions which are given in this act.

  • Its First Part tells about its short title and commencement date, its applicability and there is a clause for definitions also. Which helps us to understand the terminology used in the provisions.
  • Its second part discusses National Shipping Board”s Establishment, functions, power, etc.
  • Its Third part talks about general administration, and various offices such as the shipping office, marine department, etc.
  • Its fourth, fifth, and sixth deal with the registration of ships, certification transformation of ships and goods, etc.
  • Part tenth deals with safety. Part ninth deals with Preventing sea pollution from the discharge of oil and oil mixtures. Various powers of the Central Government, provisions on salvage and wrecking, provisions regarding the appointment of examiners in certain cases as well as penalties for violation of the procedures under the Act have been given in the presiding provisions of the Act.

Landmark Judgements

There are two important landmark judgments related to maritime laws in India given here:

British India Steam Navigation Co. vs. Shanmugavilas Cashew Industries

In this judgment, it was decided that the jurisdiction of Indian Courts extends to territorial waters and the Indian Parliament has no authority to legislate on foreign vessels, and foreigners on high seas are held by the supreme court. In this case, it was also said that Any Indian resolution can’t deny an unfamiliar vessel or an outsider of their privileges or obligations until the unfamiliar vessel entered Indian regional waters and thus went under the Indian regional locale.

Research Foundation for Science vs. The Union of India

In this judgment, several foreign ships are entering India only for the purpose of shipbreaking and thereby leading to health hazards was held by the court. Due to this reason, the court concluded that the state government and other applicable organizations, like the state Oceanic Board, control the confirmation of boats into India for the motivation behind shipbreaking.


The law of the sea is strongly interlinked with the development of India. Because it is one of the primary sources of our economic development. It is in and out one of the shining fields of law. In India, there is a need to control sea laws. By this, the import or export of goods will become easier. India also needs strict regulations to control foreign activities and shipbreaking. The law of the sea has shining career opportunities which will help our new generation to grow their career.