Legislative Council

LC Paper No. LS 137/98-99

Paper for the House Committee Meeting
of the Legislative Council
on 16 April 1999

Legal Service Division Report on
Merchant Shipping (Local Vessels) Bill

Object of the Bill

This Bill seeks to consolidate and amend the law relating to local vessels, in particular to improve their safety, control and regulation.

LegCo Brief Reference

2. ECON 4/3231/88(99) Pt. 19 issued by the Economic Services Bureau dated 16 March 1999.

Date of First Reading

3. 31 March 1999.


4. This Bill seeks to regulate local vessels and covers a wide range of issues. Many of the provisions of this Bill are taken from the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (Cap. 313). The Bill is now divided into 15 Parts. Part I is preliminary and Clause 2 is a definition clause. "Local vessel" is defined to include 5 types of vessels. The first four types (i.e. Paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) in the definition) are basically taken from section 25 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance. The fifth type (i.e. paragraph (e) in the definition) is newly added. It refers to "any vessel, not being a vessel referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d), in respect of which a permit referred to in section 89(2) is in force". The proposed section 89(2) provides that "the Secretary for Economic Services may make regulations providing for the issue by the Director of a permit in respect of a vessel to enable the vessel to enter and remain in the waters of Hong Kong". It is the intention of the Secretary to issue permits to mainland coastal and river-trade vessels plying regularly in Hong Kong waters. Thus, provisions under this Bill would apply to these vessels referred to in paragraph (e) of the definition of "local vessel", unless they are specifically exempted.

5. Part II provides for the establishment of a Local Vessels Advisory Committee to advise the Director of Marine on any matter related to the performance of the Director's functions under this Bill.

6. Part III empowers the Director to approve codes of practice for the purpose of providing practical guidance in respect of any requirements under this Bill. Any provision of a code of practice relevant to a requirement under this Bill alleged to have been contravened would be admissible in evidence in the proceedings under this Bill.

7. Part IV relates to certification and licensing of local vessels. The owner of the local vessel, his agent and the coxswain of the vessel commit an offence and each of them is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $25,000 and to imprisonment for 1 year if the vessel is not certificated. Certificated local vessel must be licensed. No unlicensed local vessel shall carry any passenger. This Part would not apply to some types of vessels such as pleasure vessels from a place outside Hong Kong, licensed dwelling vessels and local vessels referred to in paragraph (e) of the definition of "local vessel".

8. Part V provides for the examination and certification of coxswains, engine operators and pleasure vessel operators on local vessels, and circumstances and procedure of the suspension or cancellation of their local certificates of competency. Such local certificates of competency may only be cancelled following an inquiry by persons appointed by the Chief Justice and clause 19 provides that there can be a re-hearing of and appeal from inquiries.

9. Part VI relates to the safety of navigation. The Director may close any areas of Hong Kong waters to vessels in the interests of safety. Party VII is on port facilities. Part VIII provides for repairs or breaking up of local vessels and cargo handling. Part IX is on pollution whilst Part X provides that the Director may seize, remove and detain vessels on specified grounds. The owner of a vessel, his agent or the coxswain has a duty to report collisions and fires (Part XI).

10. Part XII sets out the powers of authorized officers and investigating officers. An authorized officer may stop and search a vessel. Part XIII provides for general powers of the Director. Clause 64 empowers the Director to refuse permission for a local vessel to enter or leave the waters of Hong Kong. If the Director is of the opinion that a person is contravening a requirement under this Bill, he may serve on him an improvement notice (clause 73). Part XIV contains evidentiary and offence provisions.

11. Part XV contains miscellaneous provisions such as the power of the Chief Executive to give directions; appeals against a decision of the Director may be made to the Administrative Appeals Board; the Financial Secretary may by regulation prescribe regulations relating to fees while the Secretary for Economic Services is empowered to make numerous regulations under this Bill (clause 89). Notably he may make regulations on the classification of vessels (the present 11 classes of local vessels will be classified into 4 new classes, Annex B of the LegCo brief referred); he may prescribe the insurance that is required to be taken out for local vessels, prescribe the safety standards for each of the four new classes of vessels, stowing and securing of cargoes on vessels, the control of dead vessels, and to control, use and license of dwelling vessels. Any regulations made under this section may prescribe offences and may provide for the imposition of a fine not exceeding $100,000 and of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years. Consequential amendments are made to some other related Ordinances.

Public Consultation

12. According to the LegCo brief, the proposals in the Bill were developed on the basis of a consultative document entitled "Local Craft Review" in April 1989 and have been refined in the light of public comments. The Provisional Local Vessel Advisory Committee, formed in 1991 and consisted of representatives of all major sectors of the local shipping industry, has been fully consulted and is in support of the proposals. A submission from Hong Kong & Kowloon Motor Boats & Tug Boats Association Ltd. dated 25 March 1999 has been received and has been circulated to Members (CP 1231/98-99).

Consultation with the LegCo Panel

13. A Paper (File Ref. : ECON 4/3231/88 VI) has been submitted to the Economic Services Panel in September 1998 for Members' information.


14. The Legal Service Division is still scrutinizing the Bill. Submission has been received and since this Bill affects local vessels in many ways, it is recommended that a Bills Committee be formed to scrutinize the Bill in detail.

Prepared by

HO Ying-chu, Anita
Assistant Legal Adviser
Legislative Council Secretariat
12 April 1999