INSA owes its origin to the endeavors of Walchand Hirachand the then Chairman of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Limited and M. A. Master, General Manager of the company. Walchand Hirachand was the first President of INSA and held this position for 19 consecutive years.
At the time of formation of INSA there were seven company members and four individual members, amounting to a total gross registered tonnage of 84,000 tonnes.
After independence INSA attained a new importance with the Government of India recognizing it as the representative body of Indian shipowners, and giving it due representation on official and public bodies connected with merchant shipping.
On 10th September 1979, INSA was registered as a non-profit making company under sec. 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.