Following is the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, in moving the second reading of the Dangerous Goods (Amendment) Bill 1999 in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
I move that the Dangerous Goods (Amendment) Bill 1999 be read the second time. The Bill seeks to improve our control of dangerous goods so as to align it with international standards and better meet the present needs of Hong Kong. Our policy is aimed at introducing a more effective control of classified dangerous goods and enhancing public safety as a whole having regard for the trade's mode of operation to facilitate international trade.
The Dangerous Goods Ordinance provides for the control on land and at sea of about 400 types of dangerous goods under ten broad Categories in accordance with their inherent characteristics such as Category 1 covering explosives, Category 3 covering corrosive substances, Category 5 covering flammable liquids. When the Ordinance was enacted in 1956, there were no international common standards governing matters such as the classification, labelling and packaging of dangerous goods. In the ensuing decades, based on the system laid down by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council's Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, international codes have been developed and published. These codes have been revised regularly to catch up with the technological developments and requirements of global trade. Many of our major trading partners such as the United States, the European Community and Australia have aligned their national rules on dangerous goods with the UN system.
Although our Dangerous Goods Ordinance has been updated since its enactment, no fundamental changes have ever been made. Furthermore, the ever-changing circumstances in Hong Kong have also called for a comprehensive review of and improvements to the control system under the Ordinance.
In 1995, a comprehensive and detailed review of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance was conducted by the Fire Services Department, the Civil Engineering Department and the Marine Department. As most of the dangerous goods in Hong Kong are imported and exported by sea, the departments unanimously agreed that the local control system should as far as possible follow the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, which was developed from the UN system with a view to controlling the sea carriage of dangerous goods. The review also recommended that the control framework under the Ordinance be extended to cover more dangerous goods, with reference to the list of dangerous goods of the IMDG Code and the actual circumstances in Hong Kong. Suitable amendments were also recommended to the other arrangements under the Ordinance, including those on the exempted quantities, packaging and labelling of classified dangerous goods, and the penalty provisions.
Furthermore, with particular reference to the cyanide spillage incident on Tai Po Road in 1997, a consultancy study was commissioned by the Fire Services Department on the need to step up safety measures for the conveyance of dangerous goods by vehicles. Under the existing Ordinance, conveyance of dangerous goods of Category 1 (explosives), Category 2 (compressed gases) and Category 5 (flammable liquids) by vehicles is subject to licensing control. The consultancy study recommended the extension of the licensing regime to the conveyance of dangerous goods in all the other Categories, a mandatory scheme to train and equip drivers with the knowledge and skills of handling dangerous goods, and the transmission across the conveyance chain of adequate information on the dangerous goods delivered.
Following the comprehensive review of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance, we have developed a series of proposed improvements, which are summarized as follows:
(a) The coverage of the land control of dangerous goods should be expanded in accordance with the IMDG scheme of classification, plus minor variations, with the ten broad "Categories" covering some 400 types of dangerous substances regrouped to nine broad "Classes" covering some 1600 types.
(b) The IMDG Code should be followed strictly for the conveyance of dangerous goods on board a vessel in the waters of Hong Kong. Although diesel oil is not classified as dangerous goods under the IMDG Code, we recommend that the existing control of the sea carriage of diesel oil be maintained.
(c) The penalties for offences under the dangerous goods legislation should be increased to offset the inflation over time, preserve an effective deterrent effect and impose heavier punishment on repeated offenders.
(d) The Director of Fire Services and the Director of Marine should be empowered to issue codes of practice to promulgate detailed guidelines and safety practices to be followed by the trade in the handling of dangerous goods.
(e) The exempted quantities of classified dangerous goods should be increased.
(f) The provisions on the packaging, labelling and other requirements under the legislation should be revised in line with international standards.
(g) In addition to the conveyance of dangerous goods in Categories 1, 2 and 5 (or proposed Classes 1, 2 and 3 under the IMDG Code) by vehicles, the licensing regime should be extended to cover the conveyance of all the other Classes of dangerous goods. A requirement for mandatory training should also be introduced for vehicle drivers.
(h) A registration system for Class 1 dangerous goods (i.e. explosives and blasting agents) should be introduced to keep in line with the control framework and legislative arrangements of our major trading partners such as UK, Canada and Australia.
In order to implement the above proposals, we need to amend the Dangerous Goods Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation. The Bill contains the necessary amendments to the principal Ordinance, including specific provisions on the proposed control measures and empowering provisions on future modifications of the subsidiary legislation. I hereby commend the Bill to Members for early approval.
After completion of the legislative process, the improvement measures will be implemented by phases with a coordinated programme of education and publicity for the trade and the public, so that with a better understanding of the contents and requirements of the Bill, they may make proper preparation and arrangements.
We consulted the Dangerous Goods Standing Committee on the proposals and obtained its support. Public consultation was conducted in March this year and the provisional district boards and the trade were generally in support of the proposed amendments. Views were also sought from the Panel on Security, which indicated its understanding and support for the amendments.
Madam President, with these remarks, I beg to move.
End/Wednesday, December 1, 1999