South Africa’s parliament wants to take a firm stand against maritime pollution from big ships. They are proposing a fine increase from R500,000 to R10 million for pollution to make non-compliance expensive.
The Department of Transport on Tuesday proposed amendments to marine pollution (prevention of pollution from ships). The department announced in parliament that it was considering increasing the fine to R10 million as a way to contribute to mitigating climate change. These “big” ships include cruise ships and explorative powerships.
Dumisani Ntuli, chief director of maritime transport policy and legislation, said: “The department’s reason to increase the fine is to strengthen the arm of the state to ensure recovery of damages resulting from pollution from fuel bunkers and other chemicals. There are cases in other jurisdictions where the state had to bear the costs of climate change caused by polluting ships.”
The amendments also target limiting air and sewage pollution from ships and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
“The Minister [of Transport] can make regulations relating to, among others, the prevention of air pollution from ships, the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships and any other incidental administrative or procedural matters that are necessary for the proper implementation of the principal Act,” the amended act read.
Ntuli added that the alternative to the R10 million increase would be to imprison offenders for the pollution.
“The alternative to the fine would be imprisonment that would not exceed 10 years. This is all to deter ships from not complying with legislation. Ships must ensure they have the required insurance to cover such damages,” he said.
According to the committee report, South Africa has issued fines amounting to R1.4 million for sea pollution.
“If South Africa does not do its bit to clamp down on maritime pollution, it would appear that it is not helping the global community in that objective. The country has collected fines to the value of R1.4 million to show that we are serious,” Ntuli said.
“Besides us not being found to give full effect [to the protocols] we would be found not to be the ‘good guys’ in the international system. Other states in the International Maritime Organisation want to know that South Africa is doing its part to rid the oceans of pollution, and that is why legislative changes are needed,” he said.
One of the worst polluters
The report indicated that the shipping industry is responsible for large quantities of pollutants being omitted, including over 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions, apart from deadly emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxides.
Being one of the world’s most-polluting sectors, the increase in marine transport also increases ship pollution substantially.
“South Africa follows the The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships Act, first adopted in 1997, which limits the main air pollutants contained in ships’ exhaust gas, including sulphur oxide and nitrous oxides, which prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances as a contribution to climate change prevention,” the report found.
Last month, minister of forestry fisheries and the environment Barbara Creecy shot down an appeal by the Turkish Karpowership group for ship-mounted, gas-fired power plants at harbours in Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha Bay, saying the ship failed to examine the amount of pollution it would produce and the damage it would cause to marine life.
Last year, M&G reported that the minimum lifetime cost to South Africa of pollution produced in 2019 by big ships and ordinary citizens is a staggering R885.34 billion, including damage to livelihoods and key economic industries such as fishing and tourism, clean-up costs to the government and threats to the health of the population.
This legislative step, if approved, should make big shipping companies take more responsibility for their ocean pollution output.
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