Environmental protection, safety and technological development in focus
The latest draft revision to China's Maritime Traffic Safety Law stresses environmental protection, people's safety and the development of science and technology in maritime traffic activities, echoing the trending concerns of the era, experts said.
A draft revision proposed additional provisions about the protection of the marine environment, epidemic control on vessels and the improvement of maritime traffic safety-related science and technologies.
The draft was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, for a second reading on Monday.
According to the draft, units and individuals participating in maritime traffic activities are obliged to protect the marine environment.
It also stated that when a crew member is found to have－or is suspected of having－infectious diseases that may cause a serious health threat to other people, the captain of the vessel should carry out emergency response plans, setting up an isolation space for those who fell sick and reporting to authorities at once.
The State encourages and supports the application of advanced science and technology in marine traffic safety, boosting the development of related science and technologies, the draft said.
"The latest amendments of the Maritime Traffic Safety Law of the People's Republic of China reflect the State's emphasis on protecting the marine environment and maintaining human safety in economic activities such as transportation, a concept also mentioned in a speech delivered by President Xi Jinping when he attended the Leaders' Summit on Climate recently," said Bai Jiayu, a law professor specializing in maritime law at Nankai University in Tianjin.
She added that the amendments also reflect China's efforts to maintain economic safety by developing science and technologies.
"The blow from COVID-19 has affected work orders and environments in different industries. The crew members and passengers on marine transportation vessels are in a special environment," Bai said.
"The sanitary and epidemic control conditions on board are comparatively closed, with limited space and delayed information. The draft provisions regarding epidemic control could help ensure the health and safety of crew members and passengers on board. By maintaining people's physical and mental health, it will help to maintain the vessel's transport safety.
Bai said people and units are partly responsible for protecting the marine environment when they participate in transportation activities by sea.
"Both individuals and units have been written into the draft, ensuring the goal of protecting the marine environment will be carried out to specific and detailed levels," she said, adding that doing so promotes the legislative purpose of "maintaining the order of marine transportation, protecting life and property and safeguarding national rights and interests".
She also said the development of science and technologies will boost the modernization of maritime transport safety.
"Science and technology are the weapons of China and are vital in the effort to develop a strong maritime nation," she said.
Lawyer Liu Ruzhong, legal counselor of the Ministry of Transport and also the senior partner of Tahota Law Firm's Beijing office, agreed.
From the information publicized by the NPC Standing Committee, the provisions echo environmental protection, the essential subject of the era, answering people's concerns regarding maritime traffic safety, Liu said.
The draft revisions also consider emergency situations related to maritime traffic safety.
"Although legislation could not fully reflect the reality from every perspective as a mirror, legislators are able to promptly pay more attention to what is going on to draft a better revision and make it more practical," he said.
For example, the draft revision has proposed additional provisions regarding epidemic control on vessels and clarified the obligations of the captain in such cases.When the provisions take effect, if a highly contagious disease similar to COVID-19 occurred, the captain can implement administrative coercive measures that can only be exercised by the State organs, such as isolating and treating crew members who feel sick, setting up temporary isolation spaces and controlling the movement of people on board, Liu said.