Jun 10, 2010

Community feedback sought on rewrite of maritime laws

Community feedback sought on rewrite of maritime laws

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 10 2010

Individuals and organisations interested in the future of shipping and the protection of our fragile coastal ecosystems are invited to participate in the Rudd Labor Government’s root and branch rewrite of the nation’s existing maritime laws, with suggestions and feedback due by 30 July.

As a way of encouraging this involvement I have today published a discussion paper outlining options for modernising the legislative regime – the Navigation Act 1912 – responsible for maintaining safety at sea and preventing environmental disasters.

Specifically, this piece of legislation regulates matters such as ship construction standards; safe navigation, the inspection and seaworthiness of vessels; the use of safety equipment and procedures; the handling of dangerous goods; and crew qualifications.

Almost a century after this landmark legislation was drafted by Australia’s first majority Labor government the task of modernising it has fallen to us, yet another reformist Labor Government. Continuing to patch it up when a problem arises or after an accident occurs is no longer tenable.

Put simply, our maritime laws need to reflect the age of the super tanker; not the era of the steamship, balancing the needs of an industry critical to the ongoing economic development of an island continent like Australia with the community’s heighten environmental awareness.

This rewrite is particularly timely given all commercial vessels will soon be regulated nationally by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) – doing away with differing state based regulations after more than a century of failed attempts and false starts.

The new laws will also incorporate the findings of a separate review currently underway into the adequacy of the existing penalties for shipping companies and crews found to be engaging in unsafe and irresponsible actions at sea. This was an initiative arising out the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 earlier this year.

Each year some 3,500 cargo vessels as well as more than 200 oil tankers and chemical carriers navigate through Australian waters.

Copies of the discussion paper prepared by my Department and AMSA can be downloaded from: http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/maritime/paper/index.aspx.