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Safety Of Life At Sea Convention

Volume 984: debated on Monday 12 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects the requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention to come into force.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 will enter into force on 25 May, and represents an important step forward in our continuing endeavours, nationally and internationally, to promote maritime safety.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the risks which communities such as Canvey Island, with its heavy concentration of high risk industry on the waterfront, face from unsafe vessels carrying hazardous cargoes and from bad navigation practices? Is he aware of our anxiety about delays in fully implementing conventions of this kind? By what date can we be completely assured of the banning of tankers, not fitted with inert gas systems, from ports such as London?

I could hardly be unaware of the anxieties about Canvey Island while my hon. Friend is a Member of this House. He constantly brings them to my attention. I said on 24 April that we will introduce the convention on inert gas system requirements for foreign ships earlier than would be required by the 1974 convention. I assure him that we are taking a lead in introducing requirements for the special qualification for the masters and officers of such vessels because of the very dangers to which he draws our attention.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answers on both counts are satisfactory to the Opposition? Is he also aware that about one-third of total losses relate to ships that are less than 10 years old? Can he give us some indication of the timetable that he envisages for the ratification and coming into effect of the convention on training, certification and watch-keeping? There is deep concern about inadequate international standards of management and crewing.

That will not be an easy matter, but, in line with the conventions, the United Kingdom will be introducing new certification requirements in 1981 and I hope that other countries will rapidly follow our example. I am encouraged by the fact that these measures have the support of both sides of the House.