Australia toughens pollution laws

Last week the Australian government passed a bill extending penalty provisions for pollution incidents in their waters. As well as expanding existing offence and civil penalty provisions in the Navigation Act 1912 (Navigation Act) and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 (PPS Act). The amendments include new provisions that are expected to take effect from the 18th December 2011.

A Club

Legal Briefing

authored by our local correspondents, Brian White Associates, summarises these changes.

The amendments have been introduced in response to two recent shipping incidents involving damage to reef and oil spillage: the first in March 2009, involving the Hong Kong China registered general cargo ship, Pacific Adventurer; and the second in April 2010, involving the Chinese bulk carrier, Shen Neng 1.

Following the Shen Neng 1 incident, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) undertook a review of safe navigation in the Great Barrier Reef. The review resulted in recommendations to strengthen regulatory arrangements and modernise the penalty and offence provisions under the PPS Act and the Navigation Act and to make them more consistent with other Commonwealth and State legislation such as the regulatory regime that applies in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Prior to the amendments, the PPS Act provided for a maximum of 2,000 penalty units ($220,000 for an individual and $1.1 million for a corporation) for the 'reckless or negligent discharge of oil or an oily mixture into the sea'. In addition the PPS Act provided an additional strict liability offence of 500 penalty units ($55,000 for an individual, or $275,000 for a corporation) for the master, and the owner of a ship in relation to such discharge.

The new amendments to the PPS act and the Navigation act will bring the offence provisions in line with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act, which provides for penalties of up to 20,000 penalty units ($2.2 million for an individual and $5.5 million for a corporation) for an aggravated contravention.

Hard copies of this

Legal Briefing

are being mailed to all Members and will also be available from local Club representative offices.

Staff Author