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Meeting reportPUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
24 October 2007
INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS REGARDING SHIPS’ BALLAST WATER & OIL POLLUTION DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT BRIEFINGS AND ADOPTION; TRANSPORT AGENCIES GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT BILL: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Mr R Tau (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department of Transport presentation on International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments;
Department of Transport presentation on International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation.
Select Committee Amendments to Transport Agencies General Laws Amendment Bill
Audio recording of meeting
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Transport on the purpose and scope of the two conventions for which approval was sought. The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments was intended to combat the unauthorised release of ships’ ballast water that could cause hazard to the environment and human health, and could impair biological diversity. South Africa, as a signatory to the Convention, had already begun to develop a Ballast Water Management System, which was awaiting approval of the international Maritime Organisation and the South African Maritime Safety Authority. The obligations of parties were summarised. Members asked who would be responsible for drawing up management plans and administering the system. They resolved to recommend ratification of the Convention.
The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation was intended to oblige states to put adequate measures in place to respond to, and wherever possible, cooperate on control of oil pollution incidents. This was particularly important to South Africa in view of its biological diversity, its long coastline that contributed to the economy, and its position on one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. The obligations under the Convention were summarised. It was noted that South Africa had already partially complied, with establishment of two entities, and a national contingency plan was to be tabled to Cabinet. A stand-by tug in Cape Town would combat incidents of oil spill and other maritime crises. Members raised questions on the penalties for violation under this convention, and resolved to support the ratification of the Convention.
The Department of Transport gave feedback to Members on queries raised on the Transport Agencies General Laws Bill. The terms of office of the boards would be three years, after the first term. The relevant stakeholders to be consulted would be to the Chairperson of the Transport Portfolio Committee and the Chairperson of the Transport Select Committee. Members resolved to adopt the Bill, with amendments.
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments: Briefing by Department of Transport (DOT)
Mr Dumisani Mthembu, Deputy Director: Multilateral-International, DOT, stated that research had shown that a number of threats existed to world oceans. Such threats included harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens which, if released into the sea, could cause hazards to the environment and human health, and could impair biological diversity. These organisms and pathogens could be easily spread through ballast water, which was water taken on for the safe and efficient operation of a ship.
The purpose of the Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments therefore was to regulate and control the illegal discharge of ballast water into the marine ecosystem. This Convention was adopted in 2004 by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Diplomatic Conference, and South Africa was a party to the Convention. One of the obligations of parties to the Convention was to develop a Ballast Water Management System (BWMS). In this regard, he said that South Africa was already developing its own BWMS, which was awaiting the approval of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the IMO.
Some other obligations of parties to the Convention included ensuring that BWM systems and practices used did comply with the Convention and did not cause greater harm to the environment or human health of other states, encouraging ships to avoid taking up potentially harmful ballast water; ensuring adequate facilities in ports that cleaned and repaired ballast water tanks, and ensuring safe disposal of sediments.
Ships to which the Convention applied were subject to inspection upon entry into the port of another signatory state, and if it was found that a ship was violating the Convention, a state could warn, detain or exclude the ship.
The regulations to the Convention required each ship to have a BWM plan, and to keep a ballast water record book, whose entries must be kept for two years. The regulations placed the responsibility of BWM on the officers and crew of a ship.
Mr Mthembu concluded by stating that since 2002, adequate capacity had been developed to manage ballast water, and that South African legislation would be developed in this regard. He said that SAMSA would administer the pending legislation. Parliament was required now to ratify this Convention.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) noted that there were loopholes regarding the enforcement of the BWM Convention. He asked to know who was issuing the certificates and who was drawing up the management plans.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP) asked what the IMO stood for, and whether there were any penalties for violation of the BWM Convention
Mr Mthembu responded that South Africa had a BWM policy. Also, a BWM system was being developed whereby ballast water would be treated before it was released on South African shores. South Africa co-operated with other countries that had such a system in place. The IMO was the agency of the United Nations responsible for the regulation of maritime activities. Furthermore, he added that violation of the Convention was prohibited and there were penalties attached to any such violation.
The Chairperson asked whether ballast water was fresh water or sea water.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) asked if it was compulsory for ships to carry ballast water and whether ballast water could be responsible for the many alien plants on the coast.
These questions do not appear to have been answered.
The Committee resolved to recommend the ratification of the Convention.
International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC): Briefing by Department of Transport
Mr Mthembu stated that oil pollution posed a serious threat which could result in damage to the marine environment and to the coastline. The Convention on OPRC was adopted in an IMO Diplomatic Conference in London in 1990, and South Africa was a party to this Convention. The purpose of the OPRC was to ensure that member states put adequate measures in place to be able to respond to oil pollution incidents and where applicable, enabled states to co-operate in dealing with oil pollution incidents.
The OPRC was important to South Africa because it was a biologically diverse country, ranking third in the world, and had a very long coastline, which contributed enormously to the economy. Fishing activity on the South African coast was estimated to be about R4.5 billion per annum, and approximately 600,000 tonnes of marine resources were harvested annually. Also, South Africa was located along one of the busiest shipping routes in the world and therefore must always be prepared for marine casualties and oil pollution incidents.
Mr Mthembu outlined that some of the obligations of member states included an obligation on ships to have onboard a shipboard oil pollution emergency plan. Ships in port would be subjected to inspection by authorised officers for compliance. Ships would furthermore have to report without delay any discharge or probable discharge of oil to the nearest coastal state, and coastal state where the offshore unit was located. The maritime inspection vessels or aircraft of member states must report any observations of discharge of oil, and must establish a national system and contingency plan for responding promptly and effectively to oil pollution incidents. Such system must include provision of oil spill combating equipment, a programme for quick response, and staff training. Parties were also required to co-operate with one another in the area of technical support and equipment for the purpose of responding to an oil pollution incident. Such co-operation was subject to capability and the availability of resources.
South Africa had complied partly with the OPRC with the establishment of SAMSA and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC). A national contingency plan was concluded in 2006 and was to be tabled before the Cabinet for approval. Finally, there was a stand-by Tug based in Cape Town, to combat incidents of oil spill and any other maritime crises.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that the OPRC was relevant and necessary especially because South Africa had a long coastline.
Mr M Mzizi observed that oil spill was a problem in South Africa and asked why South Africa was not fully compliant with the OPRC. He also asked if there were any penalties for violation of the Convention.
Mr Mthembu responded that South Africa was partly compliant with the OPRC because of the various steps already taken, even though it had not ratified the Convention. He added that there were penalties for any violation and that usually the polluter paid compensation to the affected party where a violation is successfully proven.
The Committee resolved to recommend the ratification of the Convention.
Transport Agencies General Laws Amendment Bill [B27-2007}: Department of Transport Briefing
Ms Ayanda Mngadi, Director:Governance, DOT, gave a brief clarification of the relevant amendments that were areas of contention at the last briefing before the Committee. She summarised that these related to the term of office of the boards of the various agencies, and the role of parliament in the appointment of these boards. She stated that there was in place an orientation programme for members of these boards, and that each member was eligible for three year tenure after the first term. She concluded that the Department was proposing that the relevant stakeholders to be consulted, as stated in the Bill, would be to the Chairperson of the Transport Portfolio Committee and the Chairperson of the Transport Select Committee.
Mr Van Rooyen stated that the Department seemed to be pre-empting the appointment of the wrong calibre of people by providing for three years instead of five.
The Chairperson said the Committee had accepted the explanations and approved of the three year term for board members, and the provision for consultation with Parliament.
The Bill was adopted by the Committee, with amendments.