Jun 5, 2009

Australia’s maritime laws to be modernised

Australia’s maritime laws to be modernised


The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 05 2009

The legislative regime that sets safety standards across the maritime industry and protects Australia’s fragile coast marine environment from pollution will undergo its first major rewrite in almost a century.

The Rudd Labor Government has today initiated an overhaul of the outdated Navigation Act 1912 so it better supports the contemporary needs of the industry.

The Act regulates the industry’s safety standards for carriage of passengers and cargo including the seaworthiness of vessels, construction standards, use of safety equipment and procedures, handling of dangerous goods and restraint of cargo.

It is no longer tenable to continue with the previous approach of patching-up our maritime laws in an ad hoc fashion. Instead we will develop new modern legislation in partnership with industry.

All up, the Act has been amended more than 70 times yet it still contains provisions which can be traced back to the era of the steamship in the late 19th century.

For example, the Act still prescribes the circumstances in which “lunatics” can be passengers on ships and allows government officials to use deadly force to suppress any “plundering, disorder or obstruction” when a ship is wrecked.

The overhaul of maritime laws will take into account a review conducted ten years ago by the previous government but never acted upon – a review which even then described the Act as ‘archaic’.

The development of new legislation will also allow for the incorporation of a single national system of maritime safety laws for all commercial vessels, if that course of action is agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments.

Every year some 3,500 cargo vessels as well as more than 200 oil tankers and chemical carriers navigate through Australian waters, including near environmental icons such as Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and WA’s Ningaloo Reef.