The Central Government established an office of the Mercantile Marine Department in the year 1929 first at Mumbai and subsequently at Calcutta now named as Kolkata and Madras now named as Chennai as a subordinate office of the Ministry of Shipping and Transport (Directorate General of Shipping).
The main functions of the Mercantile Marine Departments are to administer the various Merchant Shipping Laws and Rules framed under the Merchant-Shipping Act. These mainly pertain to Registration, Tonnage Measurement and Crew accommodation of Ships and ascertaining the Sea Worthiness of Indian as well as Foreign ships by means of Surveys and Inspections. On the basis of Surveys and Inspections under the provisions of SOLAS, Load Line and MARPOL conventions ratified by the Government of India, the Principal Officer of MMD district issues Statutory Certificates to the Indian ships for their safe operation either for Coastal Voyages or Overseas Voyages.
Besides these functions, these offices conducts inquires into shipping casualties render assistance during Search & Rescue, holds examinations for Certificates of Competency for various grades, Surveys Passenger Ships, Inspect and Approve construction and functioning of safety equipments including Life Saving Appliances (LSA), Radio Equipments and other Navigational aids. Ships violating these rules are liable to detention and severe penalties. Overloaded, unsafe ships, and oil pollution case are few examples. To facilitate smooth work of the MMD, Chennai District and also to have effective control by the Principal Officer, Chennai, two subordinate offices are operating at Visakhapatnam and Tuticorin. These subordinate offices were opened in 1949 and 1979 respectively. Principal Officer heads the office of MMD Chennai District under Section 8 of Merchant Shipping Act.
The jurisdictions of Chennai District include the state of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh & Union Territory of Pondicherry, (including all minor ports in the coast)
This district has following subordinate-offices:
1. MMD, Tuticorin headed by Surveyor-in-Charge – Either a Marine Engineer or a Master Mariner appointed by DGS.
2. MMD, Visakhapatnam headed by Surveyor-in-Charge – a Marine Engineer
3. RO – Sails, Tuticorin headed by Surveyor-in-Charge, MMD Tuticorin – Marine Engineer or a Master Mariner.