Sep 14, 2011

Protection of the Sea Amendment Bill

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:16): I thank members for their contributions to this important bill, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oils in the Antarctic Area) Bill 2011. One of the greatest threats to the marine environment is a major oil spill. This is particularly true when we consider the nature of the Antarctic region. The number of vessels, particularly cruise liners, operating in the Antarctic region has steadily increased. Ships navigating these waters face a number of risks, including icebergs, sea ice and uncharted waters. Consequently, the possibility of an oil spill in the Antarctic area is relatively high. Given its location and its challenging environment, it is unlikely that response equipment and trained personnel would be readily available or totally effective in the event of an oil spill in the Antarctic area. In most cases, an effective response to an oil spill in the Antarctic area is impractical, and the oil would be left to break down naturally. However, heavy grade oils are slow to break down in the marine environment, particularly in cold polar waters. It is likely that a spill of heavy grade oils in Antarctic waters would persist for many years and could have a major impact on wildlife populations in the vicinity, particularly on penguins and other seabirds.

This bill bans the carriage in bulk as cargo and the use and carriage as fuel of heavy grade oils on ships travelling in the Antarctic area. The ban will not, however, apply to vessels engaged in securing the safety of ships or saving life at sea. This is a practical and commonsense provision. The bill ensures that Australia adopts the ban on the use and carriage of heavy grade oils in the Antarctic area that was agreed to by the International Maritime Organisation in March 2010, and which came into force on 1 August this year. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.