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Senate concurs with seven maritime-related treaties

Voting 19-0, the Senate on Monday approved resolutions concurring with the ratification of seven maritime treaties, including the 1978 and 1988 international protocols relating to transnational maritime safety.

According to Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate committee on foreign relations, the Protocol of 1978, Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention updates the safety standards of crude carriers and product carriers by requiring the fitting of: inert gas systems, which are crucial in preventing ship fires and explosions of tanks filled with oil and flammable gas; as well as radars and steering gear mechanisms to enhance safety of navigation.

The Protocol 1988, SOLAS Convention, on the other hand, was adopted to introduce the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), an international system which uses improved terrestrial and satellite technology and ship-board radio systems to ensure rapid alerting of shore-based rescue and communications authorities in the event of an emergency.

“The Protocols of 1978 and 1988 add further to the long list of safety requirements on ship construction and equipment under SOLAS. It behooves Flag States to ensure that ships under their flag comply with these safety requirements,” Legarda said.

The Load Lines Convention (1966) prescribes the minimum reserve buoyancy and freeboard of ships to ensure their stability by preventing overloading. The Convention prescribes visible special markings amid ships on each side of the ship in order to determine their loading limits under different types of water conditions.

“The Philippines’ accession to Load Lines Convention will demonstrate our country’s commitment in ensuring the safety of ships and preventing accidents that could lead to massive loss of life and serious damage to the marine environment through oil spills,” Legarda said.

Meanwhile, the MARPOL Protocol and the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (AFS Convention) both address marine environment protection issues.

The MARPOL Protocol includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships—both accidental pollution and that from routine operations. It sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, which are harmful to human health, and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances.

The AFS Convention calls for the establishment of a mechanism to prohibit the use of harmful “organotins” in anti-fouling paints used on ships and the potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems.

Two other maritime-related agreements aim to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.

The Port State Measures Agreement, said Legarda, is the first binding international agreement to specifically target IUU fishing. Its main objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in IUU fishing from using ports and landing their catches.  In this way, the agreement reduces the incentive of such vessels to continue to operate while also preventing fishery products derived from IUU fishing from reaching national and international markets.

Meanwhile, the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources on the high seas by requiring states to exercise their flag state responsibilities over their fishing vessels, which are 24 or more meters in length, fishing on the high seas.

Under the agreement, only ships authorized by the flag state are permitted to engage in fishing activities on the high seas. But flag states must ensure that their vessels fishing on the high seas do not undermine the effectiveness of international or regional conservation and management measures whether or not they are members of regional fisheries agreements.

“Our lives are naturally linked to the ocean and with the richness of its resources. Thus, we must make our oceans benefit us in a sustainable manner by protecting not only our people who journey along its vastness but also the marine life underneath,” said Legarda.

“With our accession to these treaties, we affirm our commitment to cooperate with the international community towards the responsible use of marine resources, the safety of vessels plying our seas, and the protection of our high seas,” she added. — BM, GMA News