New bill to get tough on ship pollution

An update to the Merchant Shipping Act with clauses to tackle pollution from cargo ships has been sent to the Attorney-General ahead of its formal submission to parliament, says an official from the Ministry of Transport.

The bill proposes “stiff fines” for both water and air pollution and a more developed maritime security framework, according to said U Ye Myint, a director in the ministry’s department for setting laws and technological standards.

The original law, introduced in 1923, urgently needs updating, he said, particularly to enable prosecution of shipping firms that breach environmental standards.

They said the legislation is particularly needed in Yangon, where shipping has grown significantly over the past decade. Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, the number of international vessels docking in Myanmar rose from 971 to 2334. Over the same period, the number of 20-foot equivalent units, or TEU – the measurement used for cargo volume – increased from 70,000 to 610,000.

“If we have no strict rules on merchant shipping, our new generation may face the bad result of pollution in the ports because the number of ships docking at the ports in Yangon is increasing,” said U Ye Myint.

When new wharves are built in Yangon, 32 ships will be able to dock in the city’s port at any one time, while more capacity is being built at nearby Thilawa, beside the special economic zone (SEZ). Meanwhile, large SEZs and deep-sea ports are planned for Dawei in Tanintharyi Region and Kyaukpyu in Rakhine State.

The threat to the environment is clear, an official from the ministry’s Department of Marine Administration said.

“Because of air and water pollution, mangrove forests will be destroyed and aquatic creatures will be affected and possibly become extinct,” deputy director U Ko Ko Naing said.