8 November 2013 by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Two bills that heighten marine protection passed by parliament

The Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Contributions Bill (Compensation Bill) and Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability Convention) (CLC Bill) have been passed by Parliament and sent to President Zuma for assent. The Bills have the purpose of heightening protection of the marine environment.

Gareth Howard, a Candidate Attorney in the Environmental Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr explains, “Given the fact that our coastal areas desperately require the enhanced protection that these Bills in their current form will provide, it is great to see that they are  being enacted into law without delay.”  

Li-Fen Chien, an Associate in the Environmental Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr  says that these Bills advance the status of marine protected areas (MPAs) and address issues of liability and compensation for environmental damage caused by pollution from oil and other substances. 

“The Compensation Bill and CLC Bill are welcome additions to the legislative framework, as they aim to provide victims of marine oil pollution with long-awaited access to international funds and improved compensation from ship owners, which will assist in remediating environment damage,” she says.

The Compensation Bill forms part of a collection of measures which give effect to South Africa’s obligations under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC Convention); the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (Fund Convention) and International Maritime Organization Protocol (IMO Protocol of 1992). These Conventions address issues of, and provide compensation for, victims of marine oil pollution.  

“The benefit to introducing the Compensation Bill is that South Africans will gain access to the well-resourced International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC Fund).  The IOPC Fund compensates victims of pollution damage when they are unable to obtain compensation, or compensation in full, under the CLC Convention,” she says.

Howard further notes that, like the Compensation Bill, the CLC Bill gives effect to the CLC Convention, the Fund Convention and the IMO Protocol of 1992.  By enacting the IMO Protocol of 1992, the South African Revenue Service  will be empowered to collect levies and pay them over to the IOPC Fund. This will relieve the taxpayer from being required to contribute to the costs of remediating marine oil pollution damage.

“The CLC Bill achieves its purposes by requiring ship owners to maintain financial security for their ships, including compulsory insurance certificates which may be utilised if marine oil pollution is caused; increasing ship owners' liability to R3.04 billion from the R210 million previously recoverable under the Fund Convention; and by allowing the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to impose a maximum penalty and/or imprisonment of R500 000 and five years respectively on the master and/or ship owner for not obtaining or having on board compulsory insurance certificates or complying with SAMSA's directions. Importantly, SAMSA may detain ships if an amount owing to the Government under the Fund Convention remains unpaid,” he says.

“By introducing these Bills it is clear that the Government aims to prioritise the protection of our marine environment from the potentially disastrous consequences of incidents involving ships,” he says.

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