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Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Act 2020

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The maritime industry plays a pivotal role in Bangladesh’s economic landscape, facilitating trade, commerce, and connectivity. To regulate and enhance the maritime sector, the Bangladesh government enacted the Merchant Shipping Act 2020, a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses various aspects of merchant shipping. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Act 2020, exploring its key provisions, implications, and the impact it has on the country’s maritime activities.

Historical of Merchant Shipping Act 2020:

Before delving into the specifics of the Merchant Shipping Act 2020, it is essential to understand the historical context of maritime legislation in Bangladesh. The country has a rich maritime heritage, and its legal framework for merchant shipping has evolved over the years to keep pace with industry developments.

The predecessor to the current legislation was the Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1983. While this ordinance served as a regulatory framework, changes in the maritime landscape necessitated a more comprehensive and updated law. The Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Act 2020 emerged as a response to these evolving needs, addressing contemporary challenges and aligning with international standards.

Key Provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 2020:

  1. Flag State Control:
    • The Merchant Shipping Act 2020 establishes the legal framework for the registration of ships under the Bangladeshi flag. It outlines the requirements for ship registration, including eligibility criteria and the responsibilities of shipowners.
  2. Safety and Security Regulations:
    • Emphasizing the safety and security of maritime operations, the Act incorporates international standards and conventions related to the construction, equipment, and operation of ships. This includes provisions for navigation, safety equipment, and measures to prevent collisions at sea.
  3. Crew and Manning Standards:
    • The Act sets forth regulations concerning the qualifications, training, and certification of seafarers. It outlines the standards for crew competence, medical fitness, and the conditions under which seafarers can be employed on Bangladeshi-flagged vessels.
  4. Environmental Protection:
    • Acknowledging the importance of environmental sustainability, the Act incorporates measures to prevent pollution from ships. It aligns with international conventions related to the prevention of marine pollution, including regulations on ballast water management and emissions.
  5. Liability and Compensation:
    • The Act addresses issues of liability and compensation in cases of maritime incidents. It incorporates the principles of international conventions, such as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) conventions on liability and compensation for oil pollution damage.
  6. Ship Inspection and Survey:
    • To ensure compliance with safety and environmental standards, the Act grants authorities the power to inspect and survey ships. It outlines the procedures for conducting inspections, issuing certificates, and taking enforcement actions when necessary.
  7. Maritime Accidents and Investigations:
    • In the event of a maritime accident, the Act establishes procedures for conducting investigations. It defines the responsibilities of the relevant authorities, outlines the reporting requirements for accidents, and facilitates the collection of evidence to determine the cause of incidents.
  8. Port State Control:
    • The Act includes provisions related to port state control, allowing authorities to inspect foreign-flagged vessels calling at Bangladeshi ports. This ensures that visiting ships comply with international standards and do not pose risks to safety, security, or the environment.
  9. Ship Recycling:
    • Recognizing the importance of sustainable ship recycling practices, the Act incorporates regulations in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. It outlines the requirements for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, emphasizing worker safety and environmental protection.
  10. Arrest of Ships:
    • The Act provides a legal framework for the arrest of ships in certain circumstances. It outlines the conditions under which a ship can be arrested, the procedures for arrest, and the release of the arrested ship upon satisfaction of specified conditions.

Implications for the Maritime Industry:

  1. Enhanced Regulatory Compliance:
    • The Merchant Shipping Act 2020 introduces a more robust framework for regulatory compliance, aligning Bangladesh’s maritime practices with international standards. This is crucial for fostering a positive image in the global maritime community and ensuring the safety and security of maritime operations.
  2. Improved Safety Standards:
    • By incorporating international conventions on safety, the Act contributes to the improvement of safety standards in the maritime industry. This includes provisions related to vessel construction, navigation, and crew competence, ultimately reducing the risk of maritime accidents.
  3. Environmental Protection:
    • The Act places a significant emphasis on environmental protection, addressing issues related to pollution prevention and sustainable ship recycling. This aligns with global efforts to minimize the environmental impact of maritime activities and promotes responsible practices within the industry.
  4. Facilitation of International Trade:
    • Adherence to international standards and conventions enhances the reputation of Bangladeshi-flagged vessels and facilitates smoother international trade. Ports in other countries are more likely to welcome ships that comply with recognized safety and environmental regulations, contributing to the seamless flow of goods and services.
  5. Legal Clarity and Certainty:
    • The Act provides legal clarity and certainty for shipowners, operators, and other stakeholders involved in the maritime industry. Clear guidelines on ship registration, crew qualifications, and liability issues contribute to a more transparent and predictable legal environment.
  6. Promotion of Sustainable Practices:
    • With specific provisions related to sustainable ship recycling and environmental considerations, the Act promotes sustainable practices within the maritime industry. This aligns with global efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of shipping activities.

Challenges and Considerations:

  1. Capacity Building:
    • Implementation of the Act may require capacity building within government agencies responsible for maritime regulation and enforcement. This includes training personnel for ship inspections, accident investigations, and other regulatory functions.
  2. Awareness and Education:
    • Stakeholders within the maritime industry, including shipowners, operators, and seafarers, need to be made aware of the provisions of the Act. Educational programs and outreach efforts can help disseminate information and ensure widespread understanding.
  3. Resource Allocation:
    • Adequate resources, both financial and human, are essential for the effective implementation of the Act. This includes investments in technology, training programs, and the establishment of regulatory infrastructure.
  4. Coordination with International Bodies:
    • Coordination with international maritime bodies and organizations is crucial to ensure that the provisions of the Act align with global standards. Regular communication and collaboration can contribute to the harmonization of regulations and facilitate international cooperation.


The Bangladesh Merchant Shipping Act 2020 represents a significant milestone in the country’s maritime regulatory framework. By addressing various facets of the maritime industry, from safety and security to environmental protection and liability issues, the Act positions Bangladesh as a responsible and compliant player in the global maritime community.

The successful implementation of the Act requires concerted efforts from government agencies, industry stakeholders, and the maritime workforce. As Bangladesh navigates the seas of progress, the Merchant Shipping Act 2020 serves as a compass, guiding the nation toward a future of sustainable, safe, and internationally recognized maritime practices.


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