Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Jun 04, 2002
Industry & Economy - Disinvestment
Post-divestment, Govt can call for SCI vessels in emergencies
NEW DELHI, June 3
THE Union Government can requisition any part of the fleet belonging to Shipping Corporation of India even after privatisation to deal with emergencies such as war by invoking the relevant provisions contained in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958.
"Under any event of emergency, the Union Government will trigger the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act," the draft transaction documents for the SCI deal says.
As per the provisions in the Merchant Shipping Act, any Indian flag vessel plying anywhere in the world could be requisitioned by the Government to deal with war-like situations, Government sources said.
"The successful strategic partner of SCI will have to comply with this provision. They don't have a choice," the sources said.
"The Merchant Shipping Act does not distinguish between public and private companies while applying this clause. Everybody, including a private party is bound to offer their vessels to the Government when called upon to do so," the sources said.
The Government had invoked the Merchant Shipping Act in the past like the Iran-Iraq war to requisition the vessels of SCI, a public sector unit with the largest fleet in the country.
"Time has not come so far to call for the vessels of private shipping companies. Till today, it is only SCI's fleet that was demanded by the Government. Tomorrow, anybody can be asked to offer their vessels," an industry official said.
The Government is in the process of selling 51 per cent of its stake in SCI in favour of a strategic partner along with transfer of management control.
With West Asia, from where India sources most of its oil cargo, perpetually on the boil, the Government is of the view that a section of SCI fleet should be made available at its discretion during times of emergency.
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