World Maritime Organisation Conventions: Department briefing; Wallacedene Informal Settlement Visit Committee Report: adoption

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14 June 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


14 June 2005

Mr R Tau (ANC)

Document handed out:
Explanatory Memorandum on Accession to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf
Committee Report on trip to Wallacedene informal settlement (available shortly at Committee Reports)

The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation, and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf (the SUA Convention and its protocol). The two treaties were adopted in 1988 and came into force in 1992. South Africa had been taken to task by the United Nations for the delay in acceding to these treaties. Amongst other questions, the Committee asked why the Department of Transport had waited so long to bring this matter to Parliament.

The Committee considered and adopted their committee report on their trip to the Wallacedene informal settlement. The report dealt with issues that the Committee had identified as needing attention in Wallacedene, as well as the progress made thus far by the Department of Housing.


Department of Transport briefing
Mr Johannes Makgatho (Department Deputy Director: Legal Services) and Ms Judite Dos Santos Rocha (Department Acting Deputy Director: Maritime Environment and Multilaterals) represented the Department of Transport. Mr Makgatho, in his briefing, said that the purposes of the Convention and the Protocol were to make sure that action was taken for any unlawful acts against ships and fixed platforms respectively. There was an obligation on governments to either prosecute or extradite offenders.

In November 1986, Austria, Egypt and Italy had proposed that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) draw up a convention to deal with unlawful acts against maritime navigation that endangered human lives, property and affect the operation of maritime services. The two treaties were adopted in Rome on 10 March 1988 and came into force on 1 March 1992. The convention would apply if the ship navigated, or was scheduled to navigate into, through, or from waters beyond the outer limits of the territorial sea of a single state, or the lateral limits of its territorial sea with an adjacent state.

As a signatory, South Africa would be required to establish jurisdiction over the offences set out in Article 3 if the crime was aboard a South African ship, the ship was in South African territory, or if the crime was committed by a South African. According to Article 8, the Master of a ship would deliver to the authorities anyone who was reasonably believed to have committed the crime. Member states were urged by Article 13 to co-operate and exchange information.

Mr Makgatho said that in the proposed amendments to the treaties, the range of offences in Article 3 were to be broadened. Provisions for boarding of vessels suspected of involvement on terrorist activities were to be introduced.

Mr Makgatho said that twelve counter-terrorism conventions in line with United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1373 exist. All UN Member states must ratify or accede to all twelve. South Africa had ratified nine of them. Along with the two under discussion, South Africa was yet to accede to Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (but the Department of Minerals and Energy had jurisdiction over this one). South Africa had been taken to task by the UN for the delay in acceding to these treaties.

Amendments to the Convention and the Protocol have been discussed by the IMO. South Africa cannot participate in this process without first acceding to Convention and the Protocol. The proposed amendments conflict with existing legislation, highlighting the need for South Africa to participate in the negotiations. Talks on the amendments end in October 2005. As it takes three months for an accession to become effective, South Africa must deposit its instrument of accession by no later than the first week of July 2005.

Accession would allow South Africa to amend or develop the legislation to combat terrorism in sea transport. This would improve the confidence of other countries to trade with South Africa, which would boost the economy.

There were no additional financial implications to the accession of these treaties as a lot of their functions were performed by other governmental organs and were budgeted for in terms of government budgetary prescriptions.

The country had been exposed to international competition and was heavily dependent on sea transport. This has also led to exposure to unlawful acts in maritime navigation. The twelve counter-terrorism treaties were drawn up to promote safer and more reliable maritime transport. Mr Makgatho proposed that South Africa accede to the SUA Convention and its Protocol.

Mr L van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) wanted to know if a fixed platform located on a continental shelf included oil-rigs and floating platforms, and if the ‘terrorism’ referred to by the Protocol included piracy also. He asked if Indonesia had acceded to the treaties since a lot of world piracy occurred in certain straits there. He asked what would happen where, for example, a Chinese captain with a poor command of English mistakenly said something that would put him contravention of Article 3 of the Convention. He also disagreed that there were not any additional financial implications. The state would incur legal costs to prosecute an offender for example.

Mr Makgatho affirmed that it did include oilrigs and floating platforms. ‘Terrorism’ would include piracy also. Indonesia was present when the treaties had been adopted. Article 3 stated that the crime would have to be committed intentionally, which, considering Mr Van Rooyen’s example, would absolve the captain from guilt. The financial implications of acceding to the treaties had already been set out, and presented no problems.

In answer to Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) asking for the names of the remaining three treaties that South Africa had not acceded to, Mr Makgatho replied that they were the SUA Convention and its Protocol, and the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Mr F Adams (NNP, Western Cape) wanted to know why the Department of Transport had waited so long before bringing this matter to Parliament.

Mr Makgatho replied that he had just joined the Department, and had to start the process over again as the person dealing with this issue had left. He apologised for the delay.

Ms J Dos Santos Rocha (Department Acting Deputy Director: Maritime Environment and Multilaterals) said that the delay was also caused by procedural issues that were beyond the Department’s controls. The State Law Advisor, the Department’s legal office and the Department of Foreign Affairs all had to look at the treaties before they could be brought to Parliament.

Ms M Oliphant (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that international agreements and protocols were concluded at an inter-governmental level. She proposed that whenever conventions and protocols were under discussion, the relevant Minister must address the Committee. She also asked what the Convention meant by "reasonable grounds."

Mr Van Rooyen said that the definitions in the Protocol were not clear. He wanted to know if the recent mutiny on an oilrig near Cape Town Harbour, was covered by these treaties.

The Chairperson interjected that that it was evident that the Committee had a number of issues that needed clarification, but time had run out. The Committee could bring their questions to the following week’s meeting with the Department.

Wallacedene Visit Committee Report

The Chairperson summarised the contents of the report on the Wallacedene informal settlement visit by the Committee. On its arrival in Wallacedene, the Committee had been briefed by the Department of Housing on progress. As part of its oversight function, the Committee had visited a few of the active projects.

Ms M Oliphant (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) proposed that the report be adopted, but with an undertaking that the Committee discuss the report properly in the next meeting as not all the Members had read the report. The Department of Housing had to be invited to this meeting to give a progress report on the issues raised by the Committee.

The Chairperson agreed and the Committee unanimously adopted the report.

The meeting was adjourned.


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