Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Merchant Shipping (Wreck Removal) Bill [Bill No. 19/2017] Introduction
Madam, Singapore is not only a key player in the international shipping industry, but also a country that lies in the middle of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
This Bill gives legal effect to the Nairobi Convention on wreck removal, which many countries with interests in the seas have ratified. A close example is our neighbour Malaysia.
It is important for Singapore to adapt to new changes and harmonise our regulations with the international community. As such, I stand in support of this Bill.
The Wreck Removal Convention places the onus on registered owners to be responsible merchants of the seas. The liability and onus placed upon them envisages quick reaction, all for the benefit of other users of the seas in relation to safe navigation, as well as for stakeholders and animals of the seas.
Wreck Removal Insurance and Certificates
Since ships are required to have on board a Wreck Removal Certificate as evidence of insurance coverage, I would imagine that there would be an increase in administration work for the MPA as well as ship owners.
This is especially so when insurance coverage has to be renewed periodically and the duration of insurance coverage is tied to the Wreck Removal Certificate.
In this regard, does the MPA have any arrangements with ship owners and P&I clubs to ease this administrative burden and make the process easier?
Ability of the MPA to remove wrecks
Next, I believe it is necessary for the MPA to be given the ability to remove a wreck when the registered owner fails to do so within the prescribed time limit. A concern that some have relate to the situation where the registered owner is still in the process of removing the wreck but is past the deadline.
In this regard, what will the MPA’s response be? Will an extension be granted since it could be inefficient to replace the wreck-removal party halfway through?
Further, I note that after the MPA sells a wreck, it must hold the surplus of the sale proceeds on trust for persons entitled to these proceeds.
Can the Minister clarify details of this trust arrangement and when would such monies be disbursed to the rightful beneficiaries?
Details of fees
With regard to fees under the Bill, I note that the MPA may make regulations to prescribe fees to be paid for the purposes of the Act.
Can the Minister provide details on the fees envisaged as well as an approximate timelines for the introduction of the fees in Section 31(2)?
Lastly, besides specifying details on removing a wreck pursuant to Section 7, can the MPA also specify actions that a ship owner must take in order to mitigate or resolve the hazard?
In a situation where there is a resulting oil spill or environmental-harming scenarios, will the MPA specify actions for the ship owners to take in the notice found in Section 7(2) and 7(3)?
Madam, notwithstanding the above, this Bill is a welcome move. It answers the questions of which party should be responsible in the event of a shipwreck; the measures that could be taken in relation to the responsible party; as well as enforcement matters. As such, I stand in support of the Bill.