22 March 2011

South Africa: Shipping Bill to Help Country Maintain Safety Standards

Pretoria — The Merchant Shipping (Safe Containers Convention) Bill 2010 will assist South Africa carry out its obligation to maintain the highest standards with regards to the safe carriage of containers over the country's water.

This is according to Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele who, on Tuesday, asked the National Assembly to pass the Bill.

The minister said a major part of world trade depended on South Africa's coastal waters and that 98 percent of the country's trade was seaborne.

Against this backdrop, South Africa had an obligation to the international community and itself to continue maintaining the highest standards in the safe carriage of containers over the country's waters.

Ndebele said the Bill gave effect to the International Convention for Safe Containers as adopted by countries belonging to the International Maritime Organisation.

"The Convention entered into force in December 1977, setting international standards for the safe carriage of containers throughout the world.

"Since its adoption in 1972, maritime countries were expected to ratify the Convention by passing relevant legislation through their national Parliaments and Cabinets, which would enable the application and enforcement of provisions of the Convention," he noted.

As part of the process to ratify this Convention, a law known as International Convention for Safe Containers Act, was passed in 1985 through the Department of Trade and Industry.

"This Bill therefore proposes to reassign functions related to the implementation and administration of the Convention from the Minister and the Department of Trade and Industry to the Minister of Transport and the South African Maritime Safety Authority," Ndebele explained.

Doing so would ensure that the necessary functions were assigned to appropriate authorities that had the responsibility for transport and related safety matters, he said.

The Bill would translate the provisions of the convention into force of law in South Africa.

Key provisions of the Bill include:

- The requirements for the approval, repair, inspection, detention and disposal of containers;

- Prescribing minimum size for containers, especially for carriage by sea excluding air freight;

- Setting out procedures for the safety approval by an Administration of a Contracting State or by organisation acting on its behalf, of containers used in international transport.

The Bill would create an enabling environment for the growth and development of a container industry that is properly regulated, Ndebele said, and also deal with the development of the maritime industry, coastal shipping and regional integration.

"The administration and enforcement of the proposed measures are entrusted to the South African Maritime Safety Authority," he added.

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