US$330m for pollution fund
Shipowners must provide and maintain a US$330 million fund to meet liability for claims under the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO's) new convention on pollution and other damages from hazardous and noxious substances.
In Hong Kong last week, Comite Maritime International (CMI) president Patrick Griggs said owners' liability would be increased under the new protocol, the 1996 HNS Convention.
The increase could be up to six times present levels of liability - depending on vessel size, where the accident occurred and whether it was within a state which had adopted the protocol.
Mr Griggs said the final text of the HNS convention, which covered the liabilities of shippers relating to commonly carried chemicals, had been agreed by the IMO's legal committee.
It needed ratification from 12 countries with fairly large fleets and probably would come into effect in four or five years.
The liabilities had to be increased because the value of money had changed over the years, he said.
Separately, the arrest sub-committee of the Hong Kong Maritime Law Association, an affiliate of CMI, will help the Hong Kong Government make submissions concerning a new arrest convention to the IMO/UNCTAD conference in March.
In countries which ratify the convention, a vessel could be repeatedly arrested if settlement for damages arising from an accident was insufficient, Mr Griggs said.
The SAR was a major arrest jurisdiction, he said.
About 6,000 ocean-going vessels visit Hong Kong annually, making more than 45,000 trips a year.
Association secretary Christopher Kidd said Hong Kong and the mainland, which had different maritime laws, had difficulties over cross-border enforcement.
While Hong Kong ratified IMO conventions, the mainland was governed only by civil laws.
Mr Griggs said Hong Kong was an arbitration centre, but whether it was possible to enforce its decisions in the mainland was another matter.
This was because Beijing had not ratified any IMO convention but rather took bits and pieces of the conventions and incorporated them into its own laws.
While it was not easy to get countries to ratify international conventions, the IMO and CMI were trying continually to persuade new jurisdictions to do so to increase the uniformity of maritime laws worldwide, Mr Griggs said.
One of the main issues was sovereignty.
This was because a new government might not recognise what a previous government had recognised.
The United States was one example of a country which never ratified any IMO Convention, Mr Griggs said.
A convention's worth depended only on the number of ratifications it attracted.