The Civil Aviation Compliance unit of the Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the Carriage by Air Amendment Bill [B18-2006], which sought to amend the Carriage by Air Act No 17 of 1946 to comply with the ratified Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 (the Montreal Convention). The main clauses of the Bill were explained. Members raised questions on liability for loss or damage or delay, clarification of who would be regarded as an air carrier, jurisdiction for lodging a claim, the definition of Special Drawing Rights referred to in the Convention and the waiting periods for claims. The Committee decided to consider the Bill further and give its final approval at the next meeting.
The Committee tabled and approved a draft resolution on the National Assembly debate. It further tabled and approved a letter to the Director General of the Department of Transport, pursuant to the Committee’s concerns on the tourism bus industry, calling upon the task team to give a response to the issues raised.
Carriage by Air Amendment Bill [B18-2006]: Deliberations
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the Carriage by Air Amendment Bill had been introduced in order to give effect to the Montreal Convention.
Mr Levers Mabaso (Director: Civil Aviation Compliance and Monitoring: Department of Transport) commented that the purpose of the Montreal Convention was to modernize the Warsaw System of liability (which had been approved by previous Conventions, and dated back to 1929) for the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo. The Montreal Convention had introduced a two-tier system of liability. He told the Committee that because both Houses had acceded to the Convention, it became necessary to amend the local legislation. This Amendment Bill would give effect to the Montreal Convention by amending the Carriage by Air Act No 17 of 1946.
Mr Mabaso stated that exhaustive consultations had been held with other government departments, industry stakeholders and the public. The State Law Advisors had indicated their support for the Bill. It was pointed out that the air carriers, and not the government, would be liable for damages that resulted from a delay, damage or loss of baggage or cargo.
Mr Mabaso went through the important clauses of the Bill as follows:.
Clause 1 (a)
A new subsection to define “Convention” had been added.
Clause 3 (a)
There was a technical amendment to replace the words “High Contracting with “States” and a deletion of the reference to the previous Convention.
Similar amendments also appeared in Clauses 3(b) and 6(a)
Clause 3 (b)
There was a similar amendment in respect of the words “High Contracting” and the substitution of the word “his” to satisfy gender neutrality requirements.
Clause 3 (c)
There was a substitution of “Article Seventeen” with “Paragraph 1 of Article 17”. The intention behind this amendment was simply to be more specific.
Clause 5 (a)
This contained technical amendments to comply with current definitions and practices of Parliament.
Clause 5 (b)
A new subsection was inserted to state that no proclamation could be made unless the amendments of or additions to the Convention had been approved by a resolution of Parliament.
There was an addition of a section in the principal Act providing for the making of regulations by the Minister, and the addition of a penalty clause.
The Schedule to the Principal Act would be replaced..
Mr S Farrow (DA) asked whether government would be burdened by costs relating to the delay, damage or loss of baggage or cargo.
Mr Mabaso answered that the air carriers were responsible for such costs, which would in be covered by their insurance.
The Chairperson reminded Members that the government had already ratified the Convention and that this process was purely to align its legislation with the Convention.
Ms B Thomson (ANC) queried whether air carriers referred to ACSA.
Mr Mabaso replied that air carriers referred to the airlines and that ACSA was an operator.
Ms N Mbombo (ANC) sought to establish where one could lay claim for a loss of baggage.
The Chairperson confirmed that issues of liability could be raised in the country of domicile or in a country that was a signatory to the Convention. He emphasized that the Convention was to try and introduce uniformity and conformity.
Mr S Farrow wanted an explanation about the Special Drawing Rights.
Mr Mabaso admitted that he had a limited knowledge about the concept. He stated that it was a terminology used by the IMF and that it was valued at a higher rate than the American dollar.
The Chairperson concurred with this explanation and added that it was an internationally accepted unit of valuation.
Mr O Mogale (ANC) observed that Article 22 of the Convention was silent on the waiting period for loss of baggage.
The Chairperson expressed that this period would differ for normal baggage and freight.
Mr Mabaso explained that a delay did not necessarily mean compensation. He elucidated that it was difficult to put specific issues in the Convention because it must apply globally and had to be sensitive to the legal systems in other countries.
The Chairperson suggested, and the Members concurred, that the Members should be given further time to consider the Bill and the Committee should give a final decision the following week.
Draft Resolution of the Committee on National Assembly debate
The Chairperson tabled the Draft Resolution and asked Members to make comments.
Mr S Farrow questioned the figure of 17 000 listed.
The Chairperson believed that there was a discrepancy between those who died on the scene and those who died thereafter. He supplanted that he was nevertheless inclined to accept the figure.
The Committee endorsed the document and it was decided that further matters could be raised at a later stage.
Letter addressed to the Director General of Transport
The Chair explained that this letter was motivated by the Committee’s concern around the tourism bus industry. The letter demanded a response from the task team charged with finding a solution to this problem.
Mr N Magubane (ANC) complained about the flawed application process.
The Chairperson responded that Licensing Boards must award operation licenses in terms of an integrated plan and not in terms of their own thinking. He stated that there was a lack of understanding regarding the difference between scheduled bus services and shuttles for tourists. He hoped that the Boards would operate more transparently.
Members were satisfied with the contents of the document.
The Chair said that he was looking forward to the oversight visit to Gauteng. He thanked Members for their attendance and participation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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