Who Will Steer A Fresh Course For Boating In India

A new season begins with the hope to navigate the pleasure boating industry into a constructive phase. It’s time to make pleasure boating a truly pleasurable experience, make it accessible to many and not just let it lie as an exclusive indulgence of the sliver spooned few! It’s time to close the chapter of the many obstacles faced and start a new one – that of solutions in the form of efficient regulations governing pleasure boating in India. But who will lay down these solutions, who will execute these regulations? The industry speaks out in response to the silent realities that daunt it and how it can make its way through.

With insufficient infrastructure and boat shows being indefinitely postponed, boating in India has reached a crucial stand still. A lot of potential buyers have become skeptical of importing a yacht due to the extremely volatile currency exchange rate and prohibitive import duty. “Customs Duty varied between (an affordable) 24% to 29% during the years 2007 to 2012. It is now at an absolutely ludicrous rate of 48%, up by almost 100%”, says Francis Noronha of Royal Yachts & Cruisers. Aashim Mongia of West Coast Marine Yacht Services wants to see a legislation in place for pleasure boating. It is the singular change on his wish list for the season. “First and foremost there should be proper guidelines set to govern this industry which is only possible if we get our legislation in place. Irregular hike of custom duty is the result of no legislation being in place. This is pushing the industry backwards. If we need to progress the government needs to look into this matter and get it in place.”

Although boating has grown at a commendable rate, it still has to get its basics right. Adding to the frustration of its stagnancy is the list of inundating requirements that are apt for the shipping industry and frankly ridiculous when applied to leisure boating. Maneck Mavji of Foretop Boats brings to light the restrictions by various agencies under the guise of “Security”. The overzealous security checks are getting to everybody. Francis calls it the ‘Father of all impediments’ as he blames the many regulatory authorities who stoop to all means fair and foul in ensuring that leisure boating is scuttled once and for all, by their crass interpretation of the provisions for legitimizing the use of such crafts for leisure or sport purposes.

If there is no freedom of movement how can boating grow? “In other countries people buy boats for personal use and charter them without any restrictions. I believe that for us to prosper charters should be allowed which will help the industry grow. Because of lack of legislation there is no clarity on pleasure boats and commercial boats, there is no definition for pleasure boating in India and there are no rules for leisure sailing. This is not helping as far as the growth of the industry is concerned”, says Aashim.

So who according to them should be the singular body that creates and executes adequate regulations for this industry? According to Maneck that is a tough call because at some level or the other we have the port trusts, coastal police, local police, the navy, coast guard, MMB (Maharashtra Maritime Board ) and the MMD (Mercantile Marine Department, Mumbai) all looking to exercise their authority, complicating the matter further. A simplified approach is immediately required. Hence one agency which enjoys the patronage of all of the above including representation of companies should take up the task at hand. Aashim mentions DG shipping (Directorate General of Shipping, Mumbai) and IMF (Indian Maritime Federation) under the guidance of MMB & MMD.  “We have been working with the IMF and required government agencies in getting ourselves heard in legislation and infrastructure. There is lack of support, but having said that we are working really hard in getting a response and we are sure this year we will see a change. Regulation and policy making should be left to DG Shipping and MMD with the guidance of IMF other than that everyone should keep to themselves.” says Aashim. “In my opinion the MMD and Navy should steer clear of these issues as MMD regulates ocean-going vessels/other, and the Navy can surely trust the coastal police since the boating culture is hardly ocean-going over here” states Maneck.

To conclude, the message to all companies in boating is that competition exists in a thriving market and this is not the case here. Government support and companies coming together is the way to move forward, after which only an effective legislation and infrastructure can come in place. When boating in India gets these basics right the industry will boom as the next big market for Boating in the world. Together we can make that happen. There is a feeling to make a collective representation to the Government… let’s go ahead and do it.

In our previous e-news we at India Yacht Page invited your advice on regulations for Boating. If you wish to kick start the much needed process of creating new laws governing boating, that which are separate from the shipping industry do participate and share your views. A few areas of attention are: classification of boats for registration, crew requirements, land laws to enable marina development and invite foreign boat yards to set up shop, port regulations & coastal guidelines to enable freedom of movement for Indian and foreign vessels and a yacht-friendly legislation. Feel free to add to the list.

Kindly mail all comments and feedback to info@indiayachtpage.com or zinia@indiayachtpage.com

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