Minor treaty actions
Minor treaty actions are generally technical amendments to existing treaties which do not impact significantly on the national interest.
Minor treaty actions are presented to the Committee with a one-page explanatory statement and are listed on the Committee’s website. The Committee can choose to formally inquire into these treaty actions, or accept them without a formal inquiry and report.
The Committee has been asked to consider the following four minor treaty actions.
Amendments to the Annex of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL)
This chapter examines three sets of amendments relating to the Annex to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL). All three treaty actions were agreed to on 28 October 2016 through resolutions of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
The first treaty action amends MARPOL Annex I (Form B of the Supplement to the International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate) (Resolution MEPC.276(70)).
The second treaty action amends MARPOL Annex V (Substances that are Harmful to the Marine Environment and Form of Garbage Record Book) (Resolution MEPC.277(70)).
The third treaty action amends MARPOL Annex VI (Data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships) (Resolution MEPC.278(70)).
MARPOL is one of the key international instruments addressing marine pollution from ships. It is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialised agency of the United Nations. The MEPC is the IMO Committee with responsibility for MARPOL.
Under MARPOL, amendments to the annexes are deemed to be accepted not less than ten months after adoption by the MEPC. Deemed acceptance will not occur if, prior to the date, not less than one third of Parties, or Parties the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of the worlds merchant fleet, have communicated to the IMO their objection to the amendments.
The current amendments were deemed to be accepted on 1 September 2017 and will enter into force on 1 March 2018.
Australia’s acceptance of the amendments is consistent with Australia’s longstanding support for the protection of the marine environment and Australia’s active backing of, and participation in, the IMO.
Amendments to MARPOL Annex I (Form B of the Supplement to the International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate)
The proposed amendment under Annex I of MARPOL aims to simplify Form B of the Supplement to the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) certificate. An IOPP is issued to any oil tanker of 150 gross tonnage or above and any other ship of 400 gross tonnage or above and engaged on international voyages.
An IOPP issued to an oil tanker is supplemented with a Form B—Record of Construction and Equipment for Oil Tankers. The proposed treaty action removes redundant information from Form B and streamlines data to be recorded, to ensure consistent completion of Form B by Australia, or Recognised Organisations (ROs) appointed by Australia, when conducting ship surveys and certification.
According to the Explanatory Statement, the legal and financial effects of the proposed treaty action for Australia are likely to be negligible, as the amendment will improve administrative efficiencies.
Amendments to MARPOL Annex V (Substances that are Harmful to the Marine Environment and Form of Garbage Record Book)
Annex V provides that every ship of 400 tonnage and above, or which is certified to carry 15 or more persons, and every fixed or floating platform is required to maintain a Garbage Record Book and record all discharge and incineration operations.
The amendments to Annex V require shippers to classify their cargo as either Harmful to the Marine Environment (HME) or non HME for the purposes of discharge. The amendments also align terminology throughout the Annex with the form of the Garbage Record Book (Appendix II).
The Amendments also update Appendix II to facilitate consistent recording of all garbage regulated by Annex V and separates the Garbage Record Book into two parts. Part 1 is to be used by all ships to record their Garbage discharges, and Part II is only required to be used by ships that carry solid bulk cargoes.
Minor amendments to primary legislation will be required through amendment to Part IIIC of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 to require the classification and declaration of ships cargo for the purposes of discharging cargo residues into the sea. An amendment to Marine Order 95 (Marine pollution prevention–garbage) 2013 (MO95) is also required to prescribe cargo residue substances now considered harmful to the marine environment.
As Australia has been classifying cargo residues in terms of HME and non HME since 2013, the financial and legal effects of the treaty section are negligible. Each ship will be required to purchase a new Garbage Record Book in the new format, which is valued at $4, prior to March 2018.
Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (Data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships)
Article VI of MARPOL concerns the data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships. The proposed amendments will require the mandatory collection and reporting of fuel oil consumption and operational data from international ships of 5 000 gross tonnage and over.
According to the Explanatory Statement, this new requirement will only affect approximately five Australian Ships. It is expected that there will be a small cost for each affected Australian-flagged ship to comply with the requirements to collect and report the requested information to the Australian Government.
According to the Explanatory Statement, it will be the responsibility of the Australian Government to develop procedures to support the collection of this information and to submit this information to the IMO.
Minor amendments will be required to Marine Order 97 (Marine Pollution Prevention—air pollution) 2013 (MO97) to provide for ships to have an on-board statement of Compliance—Fuel Oil Consumption Reporting. The ship will need to comply with the reporting requirements introduced by the MARPOL amendments in order to be issued with a statement of compliance.
Amendment to the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in relation to the functioning of the Australian Patent Office as an International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority under the Patent Cooperation Treaty
The proposed minor treaty action would extend the duration of the current Agreement for one year. The proposed Amendment Agreement would ensure the Australian Patent Office, as part of IP Australia, maintains its status as an International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority (International Authority) under the Agreement and would enable Australia to complete the necessary major treaty processes in 2018 for extending IP Australia’s appointment as an International Authority for another ten years.
The Australian Patent Office, as part of IP Australia, is currently one of only two International Authorities that Australian patent applicants can use for carrying out their international searches and international preliminary examinations when filing an international patent application. The other is the Korean Intellectual Property Office.
In addition to providing International Authority services to Australian inventors, IP Australia provides International Authority services to developing countries and to Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America.
Almost a quarter of IP Australia's total patent workload comes from its role as an International Authority, and this work is critical to maintain IP Australia's capacity to search and examine patent applications. Continuation of IP Australia's status as an International Authority is therefore necessary to maintain IP Australia's reputation and viability as a patent office. As an International Authority, IP Australia can continue to influence development of the international IP system from a position of operational credibility.
Since 1980, IP Australia has provided search and examination services under the WIPO Agreement which has to be extended every ten years. The current WIPO Agreement expires on 31 December 2017, but under WIPO procedures the text for the next WIPO Agreement was only agreed in early October 2017. As a result, there was insufficient time for Australia to complete a major treaty action before the current WIPO Agreement expires.
To avoid any gap in its services, the proposed minor treaty action would amend the current WIPO Agreement so it expires on 31 December 2018. This amendment would come into force on 31 December 2017.
The proposed treaty action would maintain current practice and have negligible practical or financial effect. If not undertaken, Australian patent applicants would lose their local route to file international patents, increase their costs, reduce IP Australia's capability to examine patents, and potentially damage Australia's reputation and capacity to influence the international patent system.
The Committee determined not to hold a formal inquiry into any of the minor treaty actions, and agreed that binding treaty action may be taken in each case.
The Hon Stuart Robert MP
20 November 2017