Parliament gives nod to new Maritime Authority Law

By Gary Hatigeva

A legislation aimed to establish the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) Act and other related purposes, in the country has been passed by both the houses of Parliament.

The Bill (Act) was passed after it went through a quick but thorough one day proceeding in the Committee of the Whole House last week.

Following its first reading, the Bill was adjourned and later brought back for its second reading with informative debates on it, but only after an approved time was given for members to familiarise themselves with it.

The Solomon Islands Maritime Authority Bill, 2018 seeks to repeal laws such as the Maritime Safety Administration Act 2009, the Shipping Act (Cap 163), the Merchant Shipping (Fees) Act (Cap. 160), the Light Dues and Harbours Act (Cap. 159), and the Seamen Discipline (Admiralty Transport) Act (Cap. 192).

“With the passage of this bill, the five statutes have been repealed,” Stanley Sofu, Minister for Infrastructure Development (MID), explained.

He said there were no clarifications in the old laws on a lot of issues surrounding Maritime Services in the country, which include collision of ships, maritime order in the maritime industry, dangerous goods, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1978, including others, and the Bill, according to the Minister, paves the way for these matters.

Till date, the old Maritime Law has not set out clarifications on the powers and functions of certain heads and responsibilities within the Authority but after being passed, there are now clear directions and the act spells out clearly when and how the powers maybe exercised.

The new law has allowed for relevant institutions to exercise admiralty jurisdiction over maritime matters, which include several aspects not limited to goods imported as earlier, and also others such as detention and seizure of items if indication of non-compliances and other related matters, including lien, health and environmental issues.

The Bill also provides the highest priority to establish the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority as a financially self-sufficient organisation with sufficient resources to carry out its function, while at the same time facilitate the implementation of international and regional maritime agreements.

The SIMA according to its objectives, is also to facilitate the implementation of applicable maritime laws in the country.

Following the Maritime Bill’s passage, Parliament agreed to a motion of special adjournment moved by the Prime Minister for the house to adjourn until Monday, September 24, 2018.

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