A Critical Review of the Incorporation of Solas Survey and Certification Standards in South African Law

Authors Denning Ngomele Metuge

ISSN: 2521-2583
Affiliations: Founding member of the African Ocean Governance Institute
Source: South African Yearbook of International Law, 2017, p. 143 – 168


The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires sovereign states engaged in maritime navigation to adopt domestic regulations giving effect to navigational safety standards. These standards have been developed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in several conventions, which require, amongst other things, that coastal states conduct surveys of all vessels that call at their ports. The survey requirements caused delays in vessel turnaround times, due to a difference in prescribed survey intervals. To address that issue, the 1988 International Conference on the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification adopted protocols that amended major international conventions and introduced the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC). The HSSC makes the survey intervals across the relevant safety regulations uniform. However, the IMO does not have competence to impose uniform implementation of its conventions by member states, because implementation falls within the competence of state parties to each independent instrument. With a focus on the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), as amended, this article critically discusses the incorporation of SOLAS survey and certification standards into the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) and its subordinate legislation. It identifies discrepancies and gaps in the vessel survey and certification requirements of the MSA in contrast to SOLAS provisions. It then makes a recommendation for the amendment of the MSA, aimed at protecting the competitiveness of South African ports and ensuring that domestic legislation is compliant with SOLAS provisions, thereby fostering the goal of the international maritime community for uniformity in the implementation of international standards regulating shipping, including navigation.