Australia: Marine Pollution Regulations in the PRC

Shipping newsletter - Legalseas


The Regulations on the Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution from Ships of the People's Republic of China (PRC) 2010 (the Regulations) have been the centre of attention for ship owners and operators trading with the PRC, since they came into effect on 1 March 2010. Under the Regulations, ship owners, operators and managers (together called "ship operators" in the Regulations and below) of any ship carrying polluting and hazardous cargoes in bulk, or any other ship above 10,000 gross tons, are obliged to conclude a ship pollution response agreement (SPRA) with a pollution clean-up company, approved by the Maritime Safety Authority (MSA), prior to its entering PRC ports, or conducting ship-to-ship transfers in PRC territorial waters.

Two pieces of supplementary legislation - the Regulations on Ship-Induced Marine Pollution Emergency Preparation and Response Management and the Detailed Rules on the Implementation of the Ship-Induced Pollution Response Agreement Regime (the Detailed Rules), both of which were promulgated in June 2012 - set out the framework for ship operators and MSA-approved ship pollution response organisations (SPRO) to implement the Regulations effectively (please see our previous commentary in Legalseas July 2011 issue.

Recently, the MSA updated the Detailed Rules and issued a revised version in September 2012 (the Revised Detailed Rules), which require all SPROs to have the mandatory qualifications listed in the Revised Detailed Rules as from 1 January 2013. Although the new requirement primarily affects the SPROs, it may well be regarded as a signal that the MSA is on the move and intends to carry out strict enforcements of the SPRA regime throughout the PRC, later in 2013. This article examines how these amendments will affect ship operators trading with the PRC.

The Revised Detailed Rules

The amendments mainly concern the conclusion and termination of SPRAs.

  1. Ship operators can sign or instruct their branch companies, liaison offices and representative offices in the PRC to sign SPRAs with SPROs. Ship operators can also authorise agents registered and approved by the MSA, or ship masters, to sign SPRAs on their behalf. Overseas ship operators can now sign SPRAs with SPROs directly themselves; there is no longer a requirement that they instruct their branches, representatives or agents in the PRC to sign SPRAs on their behalf.
  2. The SPROs may form consortia or alliances to provide services through a network of branches or associated companies. The SPROs can sign the SPRA through chain branches or associated companies. As a result, ship operators can sign a long term SPRA with one branch or associated company of a SPRO consortium and gain access to the service through its network, covering a wider area where there are several ports which their ship may enter frequently.
  3. Where both parties agree to terminate a SPRA, or where one party terminates a SPRA because of the other party's breach, the MSA must be informed immediately.
  4. If a pollution incident occurs and the SPRO commences work under the SPRA, the parties to the SPRA can only terminate the agreement when all of the following conditions are satisfied:
    1. alternative measures have been agreed between the ship operators and the SPRO for responding to the pollution incident;
    2. termination of the SPRA does not affect clean-up operations; and
    3. the approval of the relevant MSA has been obtained.

By virtue of these amendments, if the contracted SPRO does not provide a satisfactory and effective service, ship operators can contact the MSA and seek its approval to terminate the SPRA in order to find a replacement SPRO to continue clean-up operations. However, it is unclear what criteria the MSA will use in granting approval, although the rationale behind the requirement is clearly that the MSA should first be satisfied that proper replacement clean-up arrangements are in place. Specific guidance from the MSA on this would be helpful.

The Model SPRA

The Model SPRA attached to the previous Detailed Rules has also been amended. It now has only two clauses and these set out the rights and obligations of each party to the SPRA. The two clauses of the SPRA are mandatory; they cannot be avoided by contracting out.

The International Group of P&I Clubs (the IG) has recommended in recent circulars, that members should choose to use the IG-approved SPRA sample, which is based on the previous version of the Model SPRA and which has been newly updated to effect editorial amendments.

Under the IG-approved SPRA sample, termination of the SPRA can be agreed by parties by giving 30 days notice in writing before the ship enters the SPRO's service zone. Once the ship is in the SPRO's service zone, no termination of the SPRA is allowed unless the parties to the SPRA have consulted the relevant MSA and obtained its approval.

As to the applicable law and jurisdiction clause in the SPRA, the Model SPRA provides that the agreement is governed by PRC law and the parties may elect to resolve their disputes by mediation through the MSA, by arbitration through China Maritime Arbitration Commission, or by litigation before the PRC courts. In this regard, the IG has recommended in its approved SPRA sample that members choose litigation before the PRC court as the only venue for resolving disputes arising out of the SPRA.

The IG has recommended that if members are in any doubt about the SPRA, they should contact their respective clubs before contracting with a SPRO.

Non-compliance and sanctions

The MSA note attached to the Revised Detailed Rules clarifies that the signing of a SPRA is not a pre-condition for the MSA to grant a ship's entry to a PRC port. However, ships entering a PRC port without a SPRA arrangement in place, will be penalised by the MSA in such manner as the MSA deems appropriate.

It is not entirely clear what penalties the MSA may impose on non-compliant ship operators. Under the Regulations, the MSA has discretion to use a wide range of measures. In principle, failure to conclude a SPRA can result in a fine of between RMB 10,000 and RMB 50,000. The MSA can also order rectification of the omission and if this fails, the MSA can prevent entry into, or departure from, a PRC port.

In the event that there is no MSA-approved SPRO in the port area which the ship plans to enter, the MSA will allow other SPROs within the MSA's geographical jurisdiction, to provide temporary services to the ship.

For inland waterway ships, LNG carriers, or ships carrying petroleum or ballast water of less than 10,000 gross tons, there is no compulsory requirement for the ship operator to sign a SPRA when entering PRC ports.


It is possible that, in the past, some local MSAs were more rigorously enforcing SPRA requirements than others and that SPRA requirements were not strictly enforced across the PRC. With an increase in the number of MSA-approved SPROs in place, ship operators are advised to ensure full compliance with SPRA requirements in order to avoid fines and possible delay in port.

Ship operators can follow their Club's circulars and recommendations regarding SPRAs and can also refer to the most recent lists of approved SPROs and registered local shipping agencies (which are updated and published by the MSA on its dedicated Oil Spill and Prevention website). If PRC law is chosen to govern a SPRA for the resolution of disputes between the ship operator and the SPRO, PRC law advice should be sought as soon as a dispute arises.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions