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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 476

Senator MURPHY —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications and it relates to the international problem of substandard shipping which was highlighted by the recent report Ships of shame. I note that the United Nations International Maritime Organisation encourages members to conclude regional agreements on cooperation in the application of ship inspection programs. I ask the minister: what action is being taken by Australia to encourage regional cooperation on this matter?

Senator COLLINS —The short answer to the question is: a great deal. Australia has been instrumental in assisting cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region with the aim of coordinating measures to identify and reduce the number of substandard ships that are trading in this part of the world. The International Maritime Organisation has for some time encouraged its member nations to conclude regional agreements for cooperative application of port state control measures. These allow sharing of data collected from the inspection of foreign vessels in each country's ports and promote compatibility of information systems between regions.

Senator Ian Macdonald —He is just behind you, Bob; just hand it over to him.

Senator COLLINS —I would have thought that Senator Ian Macdonald, representing the biggest port in northern Australia, would have treated this question a little more seriously than he is clearly doing. Such agreements already exist between European coastal states and, more recently, between 10 Latin American countries, with discussions also under way between Africa and Middle East regions.

  In the Asia-Pacific region an initial preparatory meeting was convened in Japan in February last year which agreed to a number of principles aimed at harmonising a regional ship inspection program. In November last year the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, with the support of AIDAB, convened a second preparatory meeting in Sydney. Representatives attended from Canada, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

  A third meeting was convened in Vancouver in June of this year. It was agreed at that meeting that early 1994 was an appropriate target for the conclusion of a cooperative regional agreement for this area. The meeting also discussed the establishment of a permanent secretariat. In February this year AMSA established an interim secretariat in Melbourne to facilitate cooperative arrangements following agreement at the second regional meeting.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Hey, Shayne, he is answering your question; listen to him.

Senator COLLINS —I point out to Senator Ian Macdonald that this also has an impact on the Great Barrier Reef. The secretariat provides a focus for regional cooperation, including the promotion of information exchange and examination of training options for regional surveyors and inspectors of ships.

  AMSA has also taken an active role in drafting the regional agreement and canvassing options for information exchange. It is currently developing a computer link with Canada, which will be the regional coordinating country, for electronic transfer of ship inspection data. It is expected that the system will be available for networking by the end of this year. The signing of the regional agreement will be the catalyst for a comprehensive and harmonised ship inspection regime which will substantially improve the control of substandard and unseaworthy ships within the Asia-Pacific region.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.