Amendments to the Ports Management legislation

Amendments to the Ports Management Act 2015 and Regulations commenced on 30 July 2020.

The Ports Legislation Amendment Act 2020 and Ports Management Amendment Regulations 2020 amend the Ports Management Act 2015 and Ports Management Regulations 2015, which provide the regulatory framework for the control, management and operation of all designated ports in the Northern Territory.

The regulatory framework allows private port operators of designated ports to have the day to day management and control of their port operations, while the NT Government retains a role in relation to safety, access and price monitoring. The Darwin Port is currently the only designated port in the Northern Territory.

The changes to the Ports Management Act 2015 and the Ports Management Regulations 2015 are in response to:

  • a general review of the legislation to assess its operational efficiency; and
  • the 2018 Utilities Commission Ports Access and Pricing Review to assess the effectiveness of the access and pricing regime in Part 11 of the Ports Management Act 2015 and in Part 3 of the Ports Management Regulations 2015.

What has changed

The amendments to the legislation:

  • expand the Port Operator and the Regional Harbourmaster’s powers in regard to the clearance of wrecks and removal of threatening vessels, from giving a direction to remove, repair or destroy a vessel, to include an additional option to sell or otherwise dispose of a vessel, and all fittings and equipment on board;
  • restrict the power to dispose of a vessel (other than by way of sale) to the circumstance where, in the opinion of the Port Operator or Regional Harbourmaster, the vessel is unseaworthy and the cost of repairing it to make it seaworthy and/or the cost of storing and sale, exceeds its value;
  • require that the Port Operator or Regional Harbourmaster warn a vessel owner, master or occupier when giving a direction that if they fail to comply with the direction, the Regional Harbourmaster or Port Operator may remove the vessel at the owner’s, master’s, or occupier’s cost, or repair the vessel at their cost, or transfer or sell the vessel and apply any proceeds to the payment of the costs incurred in the sale, or destruction of the vessel;
  • extend the power to direct the removal of a vessel from the port to include removal to a specified secure place within the port;
  • align the ability for the Port Operator and Regional Harbourmaster to give directions relating to the removal of vessels that threaten shipping, including in emergency situations, with their ability to deal with wrecked vessels, by including an occupier of a vessel to the persons who can receive a direction (previously owner and master); and make the occupier who fails to comply with a direction jointly liable with any owner or master that fails to comply. This is particularly important where there is no apparent owner or master of a vessel;
  • strengthen the ability to give directions relating to the removal of vessels that threaten shipping, in line with dealing with wrecks, and to increase the likelihood of compliance, by providing a direction to an occupier in addition to an owner or master, which is particularly important where there is no apparent owner or master of a vessel;
  • make it clear that the manner in which a vessel is moored, is a factor that can make a vessel a potential threat to other vessels;
  • make it clear that a threat to the environment is a trigger to exercise the powers available to the Port Operator or Regional Harbourmaster to deal with the threat;
  • allow for oral directions to be given in an emergency instead of a written direction;
  • allow for vessels to be moved by the Port Operator or Regional Harbourmaster where there is no one on board the vessel to give a notice to, and for direction notices to be fixed to a vessel in a prominent position where there is no one on board to whom a direction can be given, and the name and address of the master or owner is not known;
  • expand the provision requiring consent for the erection of any structures, to include the need to obtain the consent of the Regional Harbourmaster for any act that causes a significant alteration of the bathymetry (depth) of a port;
  • provide police with the power to enforce port notices issued by the Port Operator to control activities on the water within a designated port;
  • provide police with a power to direct the master of a vessel to remove their vessel from closed waters. The maximum penalty for a failure to comply is 50 penalty units ($7,850);
  • provide a power to regulate moorings within a designated port, noting that the regulation of the placement of moorings and the quality of materials used for moorings to improve safety of port users may be undertaken at a later time;
  • extend the application of the Ports Management Act 2015 to a private pilotage provider which is not related to the Port Operator;
  • require the Port Operator, after preparing a draft access policy, to consult with port users about the policy and provide the Utilities Commission with a summary of users' comments together with the draft access policy for approval;
  • allow greater flexibility for the time period within which the Utilities Commission must decide whether to accept or reject a draft access policy by allowing the Commission to extend by a further 60 days;
  • require the private port operator to submit a revised draft access policy for approval within five years from the date the Utilities Commission last approved that access policy;
  • clarify that the port operator must continue to comply with its access policy until it is replaced with a new access policy prepared by the operator and approved by the Utilities Commission, even if it has nominally expired;
  • expand the requirements for the contents of a port operator’s access policy to include a framework for negotiating access with new and existing port users; and
  • expand on the requirements for access policies to include a process for resolving access disputes.

Last updated: 30 July 2020

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