Provisional Certificate becomes null and void if the ship doesn’t arrive at the port within 6 months as per Section 40 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958

Supreme Court: Dealing with the question as to the time limit for the validity of the Provisional certificate of Registry for a ship/vessel under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, the Court said that as per Section 40 the said Act, the ship has to be completely built and ready for sea-going and if it cannot comply with Section 40 within six months, that is, arriving at the port where there is a registrar, the validity of PCOR shall cease to exist. The Court clarified that the words “shall cease to have effect” under Section 40 of the Act mean that it will have no validity in the eyes of law and, in fact, the document would be absolutely null and void. The Provisional certificate of registry cannot be renewed nor its validity can be extended beyond six months.

The Bench of Dipak Misra and R. Banumathi, JJ said that for grant of PCOR to a ship becoming Indian ship abroad, the below mentioned requisite conditions for obtaining final registration must be satisfied:

(i) satisfaction of ownership of ship in terms of Section 21 of the Act;

(ii) the ship must be fully built and sea-going so that it can reach the Indian port for obtaining certificate of final registry and

(iii) satisfaction of other requirements contained in Sections 23 to 32 of the Act.

Taking note of the fact that Section 40 was drafted when India had not grown in the shipping arena and, therefore, at that juncture, ships were booked in a different stage, the Court said that Section 40 has to be read with the preceding provisions contained in Section 34 onwards till Section 41. The said Chapter is a complete Code. The schematic effect is that precautions have to be taken. Though surveyors have been chosen, they have to be extremely careful to see that the ship is completely built and thereafter being satisfied with regard to tonnage and other aspects, give the requisite certificate to make it sea-going. The Court said that these are the conditions precedent to get a provisional certificate. [Halliburton Offshore Services INC v. Principal Officer of Mercantile Marine Department, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 445, decided on 20.04.2017]

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