INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS AND AGREEMENTS
1. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS 1974)
The Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (a subsidiary body of the United Nations) convened an International Conference in London from 21 October-1 November, 1974. The purpose was to conclude a new Convention to replace the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960. The Conference finally adopted the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974.
The 1974 SOLAS Convention replaces and abrogates SOLAS 1960. There are 13 Articles in the Convention which are largely of a procedural nature designed to facilitate and encourage more rapid acceptance by States of amendments to the Convention. The bulk of the Convention is contained in the Annex to it which of itself constitutes an integral part of the final text. The technical subjects contained in the Annex were drawn up over a period of years and were largely subject to discussion by specialists in particular marine areas because of their complex nature.
The Annex deals with Regulations under the following headings:
(i) General Provisions
—application, definitions, surveys, certificates and casualties;
(ii) Construction (of ships)
—subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations:
(iii) Construction (of ships)
—Fire safety measures for passenger ships carrying more/not more than 36 passengers,
—Fire safety measures for cargo ships,
—Fire safety measures for tankers including installation of inert gas systems,
—Special fire safety measures for existing passenger ships;
(iv) Life-Saving Appliances
—Passenger ships only,
—Cargo ships only;
(v) Radiotelegraphy and radiotelephony;
(vi) Safety of Navigation;
(vii) Carriage of Grain;
(viii) Carriage of dangerous goods;
(ix) Nuclear ships.
A number of recommendations applicable to nuclear ships designed to provide guidance for Governments in the application of the regulations are also attached to the Annex.
The SOLAS 1974 Convention will come into force twelve months after the date on which not less than 25 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 50% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have become parties to it.
2. Protocol (1978) to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974
This Protocol was adopted by an IMCO Conference on tanker safety and pollution prevention in February, 1978. It modifies and adds to the SOLAS 1974 Convention in the areas of surveys and certification. It also deals with the subject of ship construction under the following headings—subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations, fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction, fire safety measures for tankers and matters about safety of navigation.
The Protocol will come into force 6 months after the date on which not less than 15 States, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 50% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have become parties to it. This is subject to the proviso that the Protocol shall not enter into force before the SOLAS Convention has entered into force.
3. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 (MARPOL 1973)
The MARPOL 1973 Convention contains provisions aimed at eliminating pollution of the sea both by oil and other noxious substances which may be discharged operationally, and at minimizing the amount of oil which would be accidentally released in such mishaps as collisions or strandings. This would strengthen, and in due course, supersede the existing 1954 Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, by further restricting operational discharges of oil into the sea and would introduce for the first time at this level international restrictions on the discharge of dangerous chemicals, sewage and dry rubbish from ships, but would not deal with deliberate dumping at sea which is covered by the London and Oslo Dumping at Sea Conventions.
The Convention applies to any ship of any type whatsoever including hydrofoil boats, air cushion vehicles, submersibles, floating craft and fixed or floating platforms operating in the marine environment.
The following are the main new features of the Convention:—
(i) New oil tankers of over 70,000 tons deadweight will require to be fitted with segregated ballast tanks,
(ii) The maximum permissible quantity of oil which may be discharged in a ballast voyage has been reduced from 1 15,000 to 1/30,000 of the cargo carrying capacity for new oil tankers,
(iii) The Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Baltic Sea, Red Sea and Gulf Area including the Sea of Oman, are designated as special areas in which oil discharge has been completely prohibited, with the exception of very small ships,
(iv) All oil carrying ships will be required to be capable of operating with the method of retention on board and “load-on-top” system of discharge to reception facilities,
(v) Special requirements are set out in the Covention with respect to the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk,
(vi) The Convention also contains provisions relating to the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged forms, or in freight containers, portable tanks or road and rail tank wagons,
(vii) Other provisions of the Convention relate to the prevention of pollution by sewage and garbage from ships,
(viii) Another important feature of the Convention is that it provides for a simplified and rapid amendment procedure.
The 1973 MARPOL Convention will enter into force twelve months after it has been ratified by 15 States which should constitute at least 50% of the world’s merchant shipping.
4. Protocol (1978) to the International Convention for the Protection of Pollution from Ships 1973 (MARPOL 1973)
The 1978 Protocol to MARPOL 1973 provides that:—
(a) All new and existing tankers must be provided with segregated ballast tanks (SBT), clean ballast tanks (CBT) and/or crude oil washing (COW) as follows:—
(i) All new crude oil tankers of 20,000 dwt and above must be provided with SBT and COW;
(ii) All new product carriers of 30,000 dwt must be provided with SBT;
(iii) All existing crude oil tankers of 40,000 dwt and above must be provided with SBT or CBT or COW;
(iv) All existing product carriers of 40,000 dwt and above must be provided with SBT or CBT.
(b) Existing oil tankers solely engaged in specific trades may be exempt from the requirements for SBT, CBT, and COW provided they operate from ports with adequate reception facilities. and existing oil tankers with ballast arrangements may be exempt from the SBT requirements.
5. ILO Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention 1976 (Convention No. 147)
The International Labour Organisation has had several conventions adopted chiefly concerning the situation as regards social provision, in particular the safety of the crew (competence of crew, social security, working conditions on board etc.) which may affect the ship’s safety.
The most important one is Convention No. 147 on Minimum Standards (merchant shipping) adopted in October 1976 which is an outline convention under which States undertake to bring in laws, or check that their laws require minimum social provision and safety standards equivalent to the rules already embodied in other international ILO conventions. These are conventions on:
—minimum age (Nos. 7, 58 and 138);
—shipowners’ obligations in the event of sickness and accident and in respect of sickness benefits (Nos. 55, 56 and 130);
—medical examination of seafarers (No. 73);
—prevention of accidents (seafarers) (No. 134);
—accommodation and food for crews (Nos. 68 and 92);
—certificates of competency for officers and seamen’s articles of agreement (Nos. 22 and 53);
—repatriation of seamen (No. 23, etc.).
6. Administrative Agreement of the eight North Sea Countries
On 2nd March, 1978 a Memorandum of Understanding on the maintenance of standards on merchant ships was signed by the following North Sea States—the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, West Germany, Norway and Sweden. The Memorandum is an administrative agreement between maritime authorities. The thrust of the agreement is that the maritime authorities maintain systematic surveillance procedures in their ports of all ships, and also that information about substandard ships is exchanged between signatory states. States are expected to participate in the agreement using existing national legislation and within the bounds of the competence of the maritime authority.
The major aspects of the Memorandum are the requirement of surveillance and the fact that, when states accede to it, it is implicit that accession involves ratification of the ILO Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention 1976 (Convention No. 147) at the earliest possible date.
7. 1978 International Convention on the Training, Certification and Watch-Keeping of Seafarers
The Convention establishes basic requirements on training, certification and watch-keeping for seafarers at an international level. It lays down mandatory minimum requirements for the certification of ships officers, engineers and radio officers. Additionally, there are mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualification of masters, officers and ratings of oil tankers. The Convention will come into force 12 months after being accepted by 25 states owning between them 50% of the world’s gross tonnage of merchant shipping.
The Convention seeks to bring the training and certification of seamen on a worldwide basis up to the highest generally accepted international standards.
8. Protocol to the Barcelona Convention of 16 February, 1976
The Protocol provides for co-operation in the event of grave danger to the marine environment of the Mediterranean Sea by massive quantities of oil or other harmful substances in cases of emergency. It provides that the Contracting Parties (the Mediterranean countries and the EEC) shall maintain and promote their contingency plans for combating such pollution, shall develop and apply monitoring aotivities, shall exchange certain relevant information, shall issue certain instructions to certain ships and aircraft, shall take certain measures in the event of pollution as envisaged, and may call for assistance from other Parties.
9. Bonn Agreement of 9 June, 1969
This Agreement provides for co-operation in dealing with pollution of the North Sea by oil. It entered into force on 9 August, 1969. The following countries are parties to the Agreement—Belgium, Denmark, France, Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the U.K. The Agreement provides for an exchange of information between the North Sea States in cases of oil spills (from shipping or other sources), for the assessment and reporting of oil slicks and for mutual assistance in the case of accidents. Under this Agreement, the North Sea is divided into different zones and each contracting party is entrusted with the task of making the necessary assessment of the nature and extent of any casualty within its own zone.
10. Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (1974)
On 22nd March, 1974, Denmark, Finland, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Polish People’s Republic, Sweden and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics adopted a Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area which has been called the Helsinki Convention.
The Convention is designed to prevent and reduce pollution and to protect and improve the marine environment of the Baltic Sea Area.
—regulations are laid down regarding the introduction of certain hazardous substances into the Baltic Sea Area;
—measures are planned to control and reduce land-based pollution;
—specific co-operation programmes and regulations are provided for in respect of dumping, the quality of the environment and products containing noxious substances; some of these substances are not allowed to be introduced in appreciable quantities without prior authorisation;
—rules are laid down to prevent pollution from ships and the deliberate dumping of substances.
11. International Convention on Load Lines 1966
This Convention came into force in 1968 and lays down various rules for the maximum loading of ships to ensure stability, together with the related checks, loading certificates and enquiries after an accident.
12. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960 (SOLAS)
This Convention is the basis of SOLAS 1974 referred to in paragraph 1 of this Appendix.
13. London Conventions of 1960 and 1972 on the Prevention of Collisions at Sea
Various resolutions have been adopted by IMCO in connection with the SOLAS 1974 and MARPOL 1973 and the Conventions mentioned above providing for shipping lanes and safety zones in areas with heavy traffic and where shipping lanes converge. However, it should be pointed out that the resulting routes can be made compulsory only in a country’s territorial waters: a riparian State has no powers to check compliance with routes on the high seas or even in its economic zone.
14. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil 1954
The 1954 London Convention (known as OILPOL), as amended in 1962 and 1969, regulates hydrocarbon discharges resulting from tankers degassing their tanks and discharging ballast which are totally prohibited in certain zones. Infringement depends on there having been an unmistakable discharge; the authorities cannot take action until after the event and then only if the infringement has been discovered and the connection between the ship and the discharge can be proved. The signatory States undertake to bring in domestic laws fixing penalties for ships under their jurisdiction where the provisions of these Conventions are infringed.
The Convention was quickly brought into force and has been ratified by the nine Member States. Its main faults are that it did not set up an international system for establishing infringements and that it reserved the right of prosecution to the flag State.
The OILPOL Convention has proved inadequate in the prevention of discharges insofar as it did not really address itself to the causes of discharges, namely the absence, or insufficient numbers, of on-board separators and scrubbing equipment for treating oil residues. The problem was taken into consideration in the third amendment to OILPOL in 1971 which lays down new rules on the arrangement and size of cargo tanks. This amendment is still not in force.
15. Conventions and Private Agreements regarding Liability and Compensation for Damage caused by Accidental Pollution
Two Conventions signed in Brussels on 29 November, 1969 set out to lay down rules for action on the high seas in the event of an accident which causes, or is liable to cause, oil pollution and to introduce a system of compensation for damage caused by oil pollution.
The first Convention contains a highly important provision recognising the right to take action on the high seas of the State threatened by such an accident. The coastal State must consult the flag State and other States concerned before taking the steps envisaged, except in an emergency.
The second of these Conventions makes the owner liable for any pollution damage. This is no-fault liability; but with a ceiling which is too low for compensation for damage caused by supertankers. This Convention was supplemented in 1971 and 1976, by two protocols setting up an international compensation fund for damage caused by oil pollution.
Since these supplementary provisions are not yet in force, private shipping companies have substituted their own agreements (TOVALOP, followed by CRISTAL) which ensure that the cost of cleaning up coasts is paid up to a limit of $30 million.