The Government has proposed to amend seven subsidiary regulations under the Merchant Shipping (Safety) Ordinance to bring them in line with international conventions. The amendments are to harmonise the survey and certification of cargo ships. 'The harmonisation will not only reduce the overall time a ship is out of service for the conduct of a survey, but also reduce the ship owner's administrative cost,' a Government spokesman said. This would make the administration and classification societies more effective in controlling ships' safety, he said. Under the proposed amendments, certificates will be valid for a maximum of five years for cargo ship safety construction, cargo ship safety equipment, cargo ship safety radio and international load line. At present, the certificates are valid for one to five years. The amendments will allow a single combined safety certificate to replace the present three safety certificates covering construction, equipment and radio. The certificate will be issued after initial or renewal surveys. Provisions that can extend the validity of certain certificates will be revised. The spokesman said the proposed changes were required if Hong Kong were to implement the amendments to two international shipping conventions. These are the 1988 protocol relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (Solas 1974) and the 1988 protocol relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (Load Lines 1966), which have been adopted to introduce amendments to the Solas 1974 and Load Lines 1966 respectively. Contracting parties to the protocols agreed to aim for the provisions to come into effect this month. 'As an associate member of the International Maritime Organisation and a major shipping centre, the SAR is obliged to give effect to these amendments to the two conventions through domestic legislation,' the spokesman said. 'Hence, we are now amending the Merchant Shipping (Safety) Ordinance (Chapter 369) and the relevant subsidiary legislation,' he said. The principal ordinance was amended on January 12 when the Legislative Council enacted an amendment to the Merchant Shipping (Safety) Bill. To deal with the required changes to the subsidiary legislation, seven amendment regulations were gazetted on Friday and will be tabled in Legco for approval. The Marine Department has been active in simplifying rules, regulations and procedures in all shipping-related areas to make them more attractive to shipping lines and shippers. The simplification of Hong Kong shipping register procedures, and a drastic reduction in fees, attracted a large number of ships to the register last year. In December, the register had more than eight million gross registered tonnes (grt), up by about two million grt, since the Government introduced initiatives in April last year to make Hong Kong the region's premier shipping hub.