Maritime International Conventions: Transport Department briefings and adoption

NCOP Public Services

26 February 2008
Chairperson: Mr. R Tau (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the International Convention on Control of Anti-fouling Systems on Ships. This Convention was adopted in 2001 and now required ratification by Parliament. The Convention covered the control of anti-fouling systems, which were surface coatings, paints or other treatments of ships to prevent attachment of unwanted organisms. Certain systems posed a risk of toxicity and other ecological and economic impacts. The Convention required prohibition or restriction on application of these anti-fouling systems, provided a list of controlled substances, required signatory states to ensure that waste from the application or removal of systems was dealt with in appropriate ways, and required such states also to ensure surveys on their own ships. Any ships in violation of the Convention could be warned, detained, dismissed or excluded from a country’s ports. The Convention required new legislation to be developed in South Africa to give effect to the Convention. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) would be responsible for enforcement and implementation. Surveyors would need to be trained to carry out inspections on the ships, but this training would be done by the International Maritime Organisation.  Disposal of waste would be done in accordance with permits from the Departments of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT).  Members raised queries on how this Convention would prevent malpractices at sea, such as changing the name of vessels, to avoid detection, and on the readiness of the SAMSA Fund to deal with possible claims. Members agreed to recommend ratification to Parliament.

The Department then briefed the Committee on its request for ratification of the 1991 FAL Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organisation. This related to the institutionalisation of the Facilitation Committee of the International Maritime Organisation, as the Committee had until now been functioning as a subsidiary body. The Committee concentrated on ensuring proper functioning of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic. The Department recommended acceptance of the 1991 amendments, which were in the national interest. The amendments were really of a formal nature. No questions were asked by Members, and it was agreed to recommend ratification to Parliament.

Meeting report

International convention on the control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships, 1990: Department of Transport (DOT) briefing
Ms Nosipo Sobekwa, Chief Director: Maritime Transport Regulation, Department of Transport,  from the Department of Transport gave her presentation on the International Convention on the Control of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships. She explained that these systems were used on ships to prevent attachment of marine organisms. Certain of the anti-fouling systems, especially TBT, were extremely toxic when used in coatings for ships’ hulls. The Convention sought to restrict their use as release of this toxin could severely damage marine ecosystems and those whose livelihood depended on the abundance of marine organisms. There were further concerns for human health as a result of ingesting contaminated seafood.

This Convention was adopted in 2001 and now required ratification by Parliament. The Convention covered the control of anti-fouling systems, which were surface coatings, paints or other treatments of ships to prevent attachment of unwanted organisms. Certain systems posed a risk of toxicity and other ecological and economic impacts. The Convention required prohibition or restriction on application of these anti-fouling systems, provided a list of controlled substances, required signatory states to ensure that waste from the application or removal of systems was dealt with in appropriate ways, and required such states also to ensure surveys on their own ships. Any ships in violation of the Convention could be warned, detained, dismissed or excluded from a country’s ports. The Convention had been adopted at a conference in 2001. South Africa was a signatory.
 
Ms Sobekwa said that Annex 1 of the Convention provided a list of Organotin compounds. The waste resulting from the removal of these toxins, as per article 5 of the Convention, should be disposed of in an environmentally compliant way.

Ms Sobekwa noted that new legislation would need to be developed in South Africa to give effect to this Convention. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) would be responsible for enforcement and implementation. Surveyors would need to be trained to carry out inspections on the ships. Disposal of waste would be done in accordance with permits from the Departments of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and provision of waste disposal would be done by the National Port Authority (NPA).

Ms Sobekwa noted that the there was the possibility of legal or financial implications if a surveyor caused a ship to be detained or delayed unnecessarily, and said that monies for any law suits would be extracted from SAMSA, which had a maritime fund including a third party insurance.

Ms Sobekwa urged members of the Committee to ratify the Convention as South Africa was held in high esteem internationally with regard to the maritime industry. The South African representative held the Chair of the International Council, and it was important to ratify to ensure that South Africa’s position and status not be adversely affected.

Discussion
Mr C Van Rooyen (MPL) was concerned about the corruption occurring at sea with regards to the use of the anti-fouling toxic materials, noting that these toxins were economically viable to ship owners.

He asked about the expense of dry docking ships that needed to be checked and recoated.

He raised a concern about international maritime corruption, and how the Convention would cater for dishonest ship owners who changed their ships’ names at sea if they were disbarred from certain ports, due to the presence of anti-fouling system toxins.  

Ms Sobekwa said that all ships, international or local, would be tested repeatedly as the Department was well aware of such corrupt dealings.

Members expressed the view that the Convention would be a control measure to prevent further toxicity in the oceans and that harmful malpractices could never be completely stopped.

A Member questioned why the Department was only wanting to ratify the Convention now was it was adopted in a conference in 2001 already.

Mr Van Rooyen was concerned whether SAMSA’s fund was sufficient to cover all claims, and expressed the hope that the fund would not become exhausted and depleted like the Road Accident Fund.

Ms Sobekwa remarked that warfare ships, as well as ships belonging to the State, and rendering a State service, were to be excluded from the operation of the Convention.

The Committee proposed and accepted that it would propose ratification of the Convention to Parliament.

FAL 1991 Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), 1948 : Department of Transport Briefing
Ms Karen Naidoo, Director: Maritime Industry Development, Multilaterals and Environment, Department of Transport, noted that the IMO was a specialised agency of the United Nations, with five main committees. South Africa had been a member since 1995. Four of those committees were institutionalised by Article 11 of the IMO Convention. The Facilitation Committee, however, had been functioning as a subsidiary body of the Council since 1972. In 1991 the UN Assembly had adopted amendments providing for institutionalisation of the Facilitation Committee, through amendments to various Articles of the IMO Convention. These were now open for acceptance, and required acceptance of at least two thirds of member states before coming into operation.

Ms Naidoo noted that the main objectives of the FAL Convention were to prevent unnecessary delays in maritime traffic, to assist cooperation between governments, to secure uniformity wherever possible and to reduce to eight the number of declarations that could be required by public authorities. The Facilitation Committee concentrated on ensuring proper functioning of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic. The Annexure to this Convention contained standards and recommended practices. The Department noted that South Africa took a leading role on the Council and therefore the Department recommended that it accept the 1991 amendments, which were in the national interest. The amendments were really of a formal nature, and were intended to integrate the Facilitation Committee.

Acceptance would require the port authority to inspect foreign ships to verify that the condition of the ship and its manning and operation were in compliance with international rules. This was already being done by the South African Maritime Safety Authority. If the 1991 were to be ratified, then the Department would merely need to deposit the instrument of ratification with the IMO Secretary General and participate at a facilitation committee meeting.

There were no questions by Members.

Members resolved to recommend ratification of both Conventions, and would submit a joint statement on both to the House.

The meeting was adjourned.

Present

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