The regulation of the removal of hazardous shipwrecks in South African waters and a discussion on the adoption of the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.
International trade in large amounts of commodities resulted in the recent growth of the shipping industry. With larger ships being constructed to meet land based demands for various types of commodities combined with the unpredictable and often perilous conditions at sea, the risk of a shipwreck arising becomes more likely. Not only do these wrecks pose a danger to the environment and to navigation but also, in the event of the shipowner escaping liability by abandoning the wreck for instance, the state affected by the wreck finds itself financially burdened by the costs involved in having the wreck removed. Moreover, an affected state cannot intervene and impose conditions to the shipowner to have a wreck removed if it occurred in its exclusive economic zone because the state’s jurisdiction is limited to preserving natural resources. Thus, despite drifting cargo and the ship itself posing a hazard to coastal states, they had no authority to intervene and issue a wreck removal notice. Recognising these safety concerns and lacunae in international law, the International Maritime Organisation formulated the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, (“Nairobi Convention”) which was aimed at governing the regulation of removing wrecks whilst imposing strict liability on the shipowner, subject to the other liability Conventions and limitation of liability. However, after a survey was conducted by the Comitè Maritime International it was also established that national laws of many states such as the United Kingdom (“UK”) and South Africa were inadequate to enforce liability claims for costs incurred in removing a wreck. As a result, the Convention allows contracting states to apply the provisions of the Convention to their territorial sea. This dissertation will discuss relevant provisions of the Nairobi Convention and illustrate how it has been implemented and consequently reformed the law of the United Kingdom. The dissertation will then analyse the implementation strategy which enforces the Convention in the UK, with the aim of providing a suggestion of how South Africa should enforce the Convention into its national laws. This will lead to an assessment of the current legislative framework governing wreck removal in South Africa with the aim of establishing whether the law is need of reform and how this should be facilitated.