Shipowners will have to scramble to meet new PRC pollution regs

chinamsaShipowners with vessels trading to China are going to have a relatively short time frame in which to enter into a pollution clean-up contract with a pollution response contractor approved by China's Maritime Safety Administration (MSA).

The contracts must be entered into, before any ship enters a People's Republic of China (PRC) port, by owners/operators of (a) any ship carrying polluting and hazardous cargoes in bulk or (b) any other vessel above 10,000 gt. They are required under PRC Regulations on the Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution from Ships.

Approved clean up contractors will be categorized by the MSA in accordance with their qualifications and response capabilities and will be assigned level 1, 2, 3 or 4 status. Operators will need to contract with an approved clean up contractor in accordance with the size, type and the intended operation of the vessel.

Shipowners who members of P&I Clubs in the International Group have been informed that it is now understood that the lists of all approved contractors will be issued in October 2011. The requirement to contract with an approved clean up contractor will still be enforced in all Chinese ports from January 1, 2012. There will therefore be a relatively short period of time for operators to contract with an approved spill responder.

The International Group has previously advised members that the term "operator" for the purposes of concluding and signing the contract with a clean up contractor is defined by the MSA as the owner, manager or actual operator of a ship. In respect of those operators not domiciled in China, the International Group now understands that the ship's agent in port, Club correspondent, local law firm or another legal entity located in mainland China (not Hong Kong, China or Macau, China) may sign the contract on behalf of the operator if authorized by the operator to do so. The International Group understands that the Master may also sign the contract, which may be necessary in certain circumstances, for example where speed is necessary, although an authorization would still be necessary for the Master to sign on behalf of the operator.

The International Group is considering the development of a standard form authorization letter for overseas operators for this purpose and is also continuing to consider the development of supplemental and amending clauses for inclusion in the contract.

August 9, 2011

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