Regulatory Partnerships

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The Shipping Industry

Shipping’s indispensable status has emerged against the reality that ships operate in a very fragile marine environment that is inherently perilous and which generates social cost concerns relating to safety, security and environmental protection. Therefore, balancing this catalyst for globalization against the inherent risk means that the shipping industry must operate within prescribed standards that are international in scope. The result is therefore a regime of international laws, adopted by international conventions that are enforced through national legislations to ensure efficiency and fairness within today’s complex and diverse shipping industry.

Global Regulatory Regime

The regulatory regime, consisting primarily of a comprehensive body of International Conventions and Protocols, which are supported by hundreds of recommendations, governing every facet of shipping, is developed and maintained by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – a specialized agency of the United Nations based in the United Kingdom. The IMO’s remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security, and the efficiency of shipping.

Firstly, there are measures aimed at the prevention of accidents, including standards for ship design, construction, equipment, operation and manning – key treaties include SOLAS, the MARPOL convention for the prevention of pollution by ships, and the STCW convention on standards of training for seafarers. Then there are measures which recognize that accidents do happen, including rules concerning   distress and safety communication – the International Convention on Search and Rescue and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation. Thirdly, based on the polluter pays principle, there are conventions which establish liability and compensation regimes in the event of an oil pollution incident.

IMO member states, like Antigua and Barbuda, must sign up to these international instruments based on its maritime interest and transpose them into national laws to give them full effect. Depending on the nature of the Convention in relation to a state’s geography and national shipping industry construct, its obligations will fall within the purview of either a: flag State – State with a ship registry; port State – State with an international commercial port; or coastal State – State with an extensive coastline, or any combination thereof.

From a holistic perspective, meeting the various IMO obligations in Antigua and Barbuda requires a sound partnership between several stakeholders whose mandate and sphere of influence extends either solely or partially to the maritime environment.

National Regulatory Regime

The Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping (ADOMS), as the Maritime Administration of Antigua and Barbuda, is the national focal point, at the policy level, under all IMO Conventions. By extension it acts as the lead agency in a partnership with other Government departments for the purpose of determining how the relevant flag, port and coastal state obligations and responsibilities are performed in Antigua and Barbuda.

At the operational level, ADOMS is primarily responsible for the implementation and enforcement of international regulations, standards and measures to ensure compliance with international obligations as a flag State. This is primarily focused on the registration and administration of ships on the commercial ship registry. It is also responsible for port State control (PSC) and the provision of hydrographic services under the portfolio of the port and coastal State’s obligations respectively.

The Antigua and Barbuda Defence (ABDF) Force Coast Guard is another key partner that is tasked with the responsibility of carrying out maritime safety related activities specific to search and rescue, oil pollution response, ship safety inspections and marine safety information broadcasts. As the only Government agency whose mandate combines maritime domain awareness with physical response capabilities, they work closely with the other partners to provide the law enforcement component of the applicable maritime laws and conventions within Antigua and Barbuda’s national maritime jurisdiction.

Another crucial member of the partnership is the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), which under the national disaster legislation, has general oversight for the national disaster management system. Collaborating with other agencies that have responsibilities under the National Disaster Plan, they ensure that there is effective preparedness, management, mitigation of, response to, and recovery from, emergencies and disasters. This mandate extends to pollution incidents within the marine environment.

The National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) as a partner focuses primarily on services that cover the storage, collection, transportation and disposal of waste, including ship generated wastes. Having adequate waste reception facilities for ship generated waste is a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of the no dumping regime established for the Caribbean Sea under the MARPOL Convention.

The partnership is complete with the contribution of the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, which is the corporate body responsible for the operation, safety and security within the port limits of Antigua and Barbuda. Its primary functions include: the provision and maintenance of facilities for the entry and berthing of ships; the landing and embarkation of passengers; the loading, unloading, storage and warehousing of cargo; and the provision of lights and beacons – aids to navigation, which fall squarely within the nation’s port State obligations under the SOLAS Convention.

This regulatory partnership relates specifically to the responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of Antigua and Barbuda’s flag, coastal and port State obligations under all applicable IMO Conventions. This can be contrasted against other existing partnership perspectives relating to other activities within the domestic maritime domain where other interlocking circles of partnerships are created that involve other critical agencies like the Department of Environment, National Development Control Authority, Fisheries Division, Customs Division, Immigration Department, and the Central Board of Health that provide direct or indirect technical support in the fulfillment of all maritime related obligations.

ADOMS is committed to having synergies between all partnerships along with the continuous review and verification of the effectiveness of Antigua and Barbuda’s performance in meeting all its maritime obligations. Further, it is devoted to ensuring that the partnerships pursue the goals, ideals and best practices established by the wider international maritime community in order to contribute to the achievement of the overall objective of having safe ships, competently manned, transiting clean and secure oceans.