Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill passed by Indian Parliament
India’s Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill represents India’s first piece of domestic legislation specifically written to criminalise maritime piracy on the high seas and allow Indian authorities to respond.
India’s recent passing of the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill (2019) in December 2022 reassures shipowners and operators that countering maritime piracy in the region continues to be a high priority. The Bill, which still requires Presidential assent (but is expected to be viewed positively), seeks to enhance existing maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
As targeted domestic legislation, the Bill is an effort to advance safer international transit and domestic operations within the region. It represents India’s first piece of domestic legislation specifically written to criminalise maritime piracy on the high seas and allow Indian authorities to respond. The Bill also applies to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which lies up to 200 nautical miles from the Indian coastline.
Indian authorities believe this will strengthen international cooperation and regional partnerships to combat piracy in the region, ensuring proper compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). With more than 90% of trade and more than 80% of its hydrocarbon requirements carried by sea, piracy in the region has a significant impact on the Indian economy and the welfare of seafarers.
Under its terms, the definition of officers authorised to make arrests and seizures is broadened, while criminalising instigating, supporting and/or enabling piracy, in order to target organised crime. Conviction under this law would lead to a sentence of life imprisonment or, if the accused is proved to have caused death through an act of piracy, may result in the death penalty.
The passing of this Bill comes on the heels of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) withdrawing the Indian Ocean’s High Risk Area (HRA) designation as of 1 January 2023, reflecting the much improved piracy situation in the region. However, P&I Clubs, and organisations such as BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and OCIMF, have continued to advise shipowners and operators transiting the region to take reasonable precautionary measures.