Sponsorship Speech: On Maritime-Related Agreements

February 26, 2018

Sponsorship Speech of Senator Loren Legarda

On Maritime-Related Agreements

26 February 2018 | Senate Session Hall



Mr. President,


I have the honor to seek approval of seven maritime-related treaties, namely:


·      Senate Resolution No. 648 under Committee Report No. 244, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001”;


·      Senate Resolution No. 649 under Committee Report No. 245, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1997 to Amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as Modified by the Protocol of 1978 Relating Thereto”;


·      Senate Resolution No. 650 under Committee Report No. 246, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1988 Relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966”;


·      Senate Resolution No. 651 under Committee Report No. 247, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974”;


·      Senate Resolution No. 652 under Committee Report No. 248, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Protocol of 1988 Relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974”;


·      Senate Resolution No. 653 under Committee Report No. 249, “Resolution Concurring in the Acceptance of the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas”; and,


·      Senate Resolution No. 654 under Committee Report No. 250, “Resolution Concurring in the Accession to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.


As citizens of an archipelagic nation, we are very much aware of the importance of our seas. While the seas separate different islands, they also connect us as one nation and, thus, even with the jurisdiction of local governments on certain parts of the seas, it takes a whole-of-society effort to ensure the sustainable management of our seas, the conservation of marine biodiversity, and the safety of vessels plying our seas.


On a larger scale, this is also the reality among all nations living in one planet connected by our oceans, but with respective maritime territories.


The seven agreements that I am sponsoring today aim to address several maritime issues.


Safety of Maritime Vessels


The Protocols of 1978 and 1988 relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 or SOLAS Convention, and the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 are interrelated conventions that aim to address issues on safety of ships.


In the maritime world, there is perhaps no other more important international treaty concerning the safety of ships than the SOLAS Convention. The first version of SOLAS was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster in 1912 which cost the lives of more than 1,500 people and has since undergone a number of revisions in 1929, 1948, 1960 and the latest version, SOLAS 1974.


Technological advancements and innovations in maritime transport are probably one of the fastest fuelled by the increasing demand for safety and efficiency. Over the years, the industry has learned that marine accidents not only produce negative consequences on people but are also bad for business.


The Protocol of 1978 relating to the SOLAS Convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to update the safety standards of crude carriers and product carriers by requiring the fitting of inert gas systems as well as radars and steering gear mechanisms to enhance safety of navigation.


Inert gas systems are crucial in preventing ship fires and explosions on tanks filled with oil and flammable gas where just a single spark can cause a major catastrophe. Crude carriers and tankers transport some of the most environmentally hazardous and toxic cargo and therefore demand the highest level of safety.


On the other hand, radars and steering gear systems are essential for safe navigation particularly when ships sail through narrow straits and channels, approach busy ports and during reduced visibility.  Radars serve as the first line of protection and if used properly, allow ships to avoid potential collisions.


Ten years after the Protocol of 1978 was passed, a new treaty, the Protocol of 1988, 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. Search and rescue coordination is enhanced under the GMDSS through faster determination of location of vessels in distress and closer ship-to-ship communications.


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. Certificates issued under this Convention serve as proof of compliance. In addition, Port States may inspect the ships of other Contracting States to check their compliance with the requirements of the Convention under the Port State Control regime. 


Meanwhile, the Load Lines Convention that was adopted in 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.


For naval architects, reserve buoyancy is extremely vital to ship safety as it prevents vessels from foundering in heavy seas and in the case of damage, helps the ship to stay afloat for a longer time to enable the crew to escape.


After more than twenty years, the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 was adopted in November 1988 and entered into force on February 3, 2000. It revised a number of regulations in the technical annexes to the mother convention.


As a nation with a long history of sea tragedies, the Philippines has recognized the important role of the Load Lines Convention as a major pillar of maritime safety by preventing the overloading of ships through the presence of visible load line marks.


In fact, the Philippines has already adopted the provisions of the Convention for implementation on both Philippine-registered international and domestic ships over 15 meters in length. The presence of the Load Lines Certificate evidences the ships’ compliance with the Load Lines regulations which are checked through surveys of the Flag State and inspections conducted under Port State Control.


As a major supplier of seafarers for the international shipping community, the Philippines places great importance on maritime regulations that promote the safety of the ship and its crew.


Among the long list of IMO Instruments, the Load Lines Convention particularly recognizes the need to enhance crew protection such as consideration of the strength of gangways, guard rails, lifelines and freeing ports including means of access to crews’ quarters. The Annex of the Convention contains several safety measures and specifications on doors and hatchways to ensure the watertight integrity of ships’ hulls below the freeboard deck.


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.


Marine Environment Protection


In relation to protecting the marine environment, the Protocol of 1997 to Amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 as Modified by the Protocol of 1978 Relating Thereto, or the MARPOL Protocol, is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.


The MARPOL Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force on May 19, 2005, includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships—both accidental pollution and that from routine operations— and currently includes six technical Annexes.


In particular, Annex VI of the Convention sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances.


Air pollution from international shipping accounts approximately for 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe, at an annual cost to society of more than €58 billion according to recent scientific studies.


Through chemical reactions in the air, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide are converted into fine particles, sulphate and nitrate aerosols. In addition to the particles directly emitted by ships such as black carbon, these secondary particles increase the health impacts of shipping pollution. Tiny airborne particles are linked to premature deaths. The particles get into the lungs and are small enough to pass through tissues and enter the blood. They can then trigger inflammations which eventually cause heart and lung failures. Ship emissions may also contain carcinogenic particles.


The Protocol requires that ships over 400 gross tonnage (GT) and all platforms and drilling rigs engaged in voyages to ports and waters where the MARPOL convention applies have a valid International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (IAPPC) confirming compliance with both the equipment and operational requirements of Annex VI.


The Protocol of 1997 to the MARPOL Convention supports the Agenda 2030 on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement on Climate Change by promoting a cleaner and healthier environment through energy efficiency and limiting harmful emissions from ships’ engines. 


Ratifying the Protocol supports the attainment of these global goals and brings a number of significant benefits to our country.


Meanwhile, another agreement that I wish to sponsor today aims to address the risks of the harmful compounds that threaten the sustainability of the marine environment and safety of human health due to contamination of marine species.

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, or the AFS Convention, was adopted in 2001 and entered into force on September 17, 2008 in response to the growing threats to the marine environment and human health from harmful anti-fouling systems.


The 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.


The Convention has the following salient features:


·      Provides for the protection of the marine environment and human health from the adverse effects of anti-fouling systems;

·      Prohibits the application, re-application, installation, or use of harmful anti-fouling systems on ships; and

·      Bans all ships from having such compounds on their hulls or external surfaces.


As an archipelagic country of more than 7,000 islands, it is only logical that safeguarding the state of our marine flora and fauna will be foremost in our agenda as this will be our most important legacy to the next generation of Filipinos—a healthy ocean and a sustainable and robust marine environment.


The Philippines’ accession to the AFS Convention will demonstrate the country’s serious commitment and solidarity with the international maritime community in the daunting task of protecting the marine environment and the conservation of marine biodiversity, a State obligation that is well enshrined in the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which is considered as the constitution of the seas.


Addressing Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated Fishing


Mr. President,


The last two maritime-related agreements I wish to sponsor today address issues on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities.


The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, which was signed on November 22, 2009 and entered into force on June 5, 2016, reflects the successful culmination of global efforts to combat IUU fishing by setting harmonized minimum standards for measures to be taken at ports.


The Port State Measures Agreement or PSMA 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.


Under the agreement, foreign vessels intending to enter designated ports are required to provide advance notice to port authorities and request permission for port entry. The Philippines, acting as a Port State, can deny a vessel entry into its ports if it has sufficient proof that the vessel has engaged in IUU fishing or fishing related activities in support of such fishing.


The Philippines may also deny a foreign vessel entry into its designated ports if it is included in a list of vessels engaged in such activities by a relevant regional fisheries management organization in accordance with the rules and procedures of such organization and in conformity with international law.


Denial of entry must be communicated to the Flag State of the vessel, and as appropriate, to relevant coastal States, regional fisheries management organizations and other international organizations.


Finally, 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.

The Agreement was signed on November 24, 1993 and entered into force on April 24, 2003 in response to the unregulated and undocumented fishing activities on the high seas by fishing vessels.

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.

The requirement is implemented through authorization procedures under Article III where a State may authorize a vessel to fish in the high seas only when it is satisfied that it can control the vessel’s fishing activities.

The principal benefit to participants will come from the availability of information regarding vessels authorized to fish on the high seas under the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) global registry of fishing vessels, which will lead to an increased ability to identify those vessels fishing without permission. Aside from supporting maritime security, the measure also contributes to monitoring for maritime safety and environmental protection.

The Agreement also supports the international efforts to combat IUU fishing by requiring fishing vessels to keep records of fishing operations and catch documentation. This can help in curbing the problem of IUU fishing, which usually extends from the high seas to the exclusive economic zones.

On the whole, the Agreement aims to balance the freedom of fishing principle on the high seas with the responsibility to uphold international fisheries conservation and protection measures.

Mr. President,

As part of a community of nations living in one planet, we need 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.

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.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues,

As I explained the importance of these agreements and its benefits to our country, I seek your unequivocal support for the Senate’s concurrence in the accession to these seven conventions on maritime-related issues.

Thank you.