Claims for wreck removal

The Wreck Removal Convention

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, is developing a National Interest Analysis in support of Australia acceding to the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks (the Nairobi Wreck Convention).  The National Interest Analysis and proposal to accede to the Nairobi Wreck Convention is intended to be presented to Parliament via the Joint Standing Committee for Treaties in the first half of 2023. 

The development of the Minister’s decision to pursue accession involved extensive consultation including the public release of a draft discussion paper in August 2020 and a draft regulatory impact assessment in September 2021, the procuring of a comprehensive cost benefit analysis from independent consultants, and the passing of a Regulatory Impact Assessment through the Office of Best Practice Regulation (now the Office of Impact Analysis) in November 2022.

Regulatory Impact Assessment

In November 2022, the Regulatory Impact Assessment considering accession to the Nairobi Wreck Convention was assessed by the Office of Impact Analysis as providing an exemplary level of analysis. The RIA will soon be made available on the Office of Impact Analysis’ website and on this webpage.

Discussion Paper

In August 2020, the Department released a discussion paper to consider if accession to the Nairobi Wreck Convention would benefit Australia.

The consultation has closed.

  • Discussion Paper: Australia's accession to the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007 DOCX: 1106 KB PDF: 1489 KB
  • Appendix 2: The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007 PDF: 399 KB

Further information on the Wreck Convention is available on the IMO website or you can contact the project team at wreckconvention@infrastructure.gov.au.

Non-confidential submissions received:

  • International Group of P&I Clubs and International Chamber of Shipping PDF: 179 KB
  • Shipping Australia Limited PDF: 213 KB
  • Northern Territory Government PDF: 569 KB
  • Marine & Safety Tasmania PDF: 486 KB
  • Maritime Safety Queensland PDF: 850 KB
  • Maritime Industry Australia Limited PDF: 250 KB
  • Michelle Taylor, Colin Biggers & Paisley – Endorsed by the Board of the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand PDF: 416 KB
  • Professors Nick Gaskell and Craig Forrest, University of Queensland PDF: 510 KB
  • Sydney Coastal Councils PDF: 409 KB

Background

Australia's laws on wreck removal and cost recovery vary depending on the type of ship involved. At the Commonwealth level, the Navigation Act 2012 (Navigation Act) gives the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) power to engage with the removal of wrecks from regulated Australian vessels (RAVs) and foreign vessels. For RAVs, AMSA's powers apply when the wreck is in Australia's territorial sea or exclusive economic zone (EEZ). For foreign vessels, AMSA's powers apply to those in Australia's territorial sea. If the wreck is considered marine pollution, AMSA can also recover costs linked to foreign vessels in the EEZ under the Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability) Act 1981. Australian state and territory laws also give relevant authorities powers of removal and cost recovery against domestic commercial vessels (DCVs) and recreational vessels that travel in State waters or share a State connection.

Recent incidents in Australia have highlighted the importance of having strong and clear laws for wrecks and debris falling from operating ships. For example, on 1 June 2018 the container ship YM Efficiency lost overboard 81 containers east of Newcastle. AMSA worked together with NSW Road and Maritime Services to find the lost containers and their contents and contracted Ardent Oceania for their removal and disposal. The recovery operation of 63 containers was successfully completed on 8 May 2020, at a total cost of about $17 million. AMSA has since started legal action against the owner Yang Ming, who has refused to take responsibility for the containers and their removal costs. More information is available on the Operational updates—YM Efficiency webpage. The APL England container loss was a similar incident which occurred on 24 May 2020, when 50 containers fell overboard southeast of Sydney. AMSA has pressed charges against the ship's master and is seeking security from the insurers to cover clean-up and removal costs, estimated at $22 million.

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007 offers an alternative to the current fragmented framework in Australian waters. An International Maritime Organization (IMO) treaty, the Wreck Convention provides a set of uniform international rules to ensure prompt and effective wreck removal, including for objects lost at sea, such as shipping containers. It also sets up a compulsory insurance scheme, which allows State Parties to more easily recover costs. Australia's accession to the Wreck Convention could create a single framework for all the above ship types located in the EEZ, with Australia able to extend its application to wrecks located in the territorial sea.