Following is the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, in moving the second reading of the Dangerous Goods (Amendment) Bill 2000 in the Legislative Council today (November 1):
I move that the Dangerous Goods (Amendment) Bill 2000 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 which covers explosives, Category 3 which covers corrosive substances, Category 5 which covers 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 these international codes.
Although there have been minor amendments to our Dangerous Goods Ordinance since its enactment, no change in the control framework has 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 UN's standard 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 a range of newly identified 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 training programme to equip drivers with the knowledge and skills of handling dangerous goods, and the transmission of adequate information on the dangerous goods across the conveyance chain.
Following the comprehensive review of the Dangerous Goods Ordinance, we have developed a series of proposed improvements, which are summarized as follows -
(a) The penalties for offences under the dangerous goods legislation should be strengthened to preserve the necessary deterrent effect which may have been eroded by inflation over time. Furthermore, heavier penalties should be imposed on repeat offenders.
(b) 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.
(c) Subject to some variations as appropriate, the coverage of controls of dangerous goods on land should be expanded from about 400 types under ten broad "Categories" of dangerous substances to some 1,600 types under nine broad "Classes" in accordance with the IMDG scheme of classification.
(d) The IMDG Code should be followed strictly for controlling conveyance of dangerous goods on board a vessel in the waters of Hong Kong. Nevertheless, existing controls regarding diesel oil at sea, which is not classified as dangerous goods under the IMDG Code, should be maintained.
(e) The quantities of classified dangerous goods below which exemption from specified controls is allowed should be brought up-to-date.
(f) 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 the proposed Classes 1, 2 and 3 following the IMDG Code) by vehicles, the licensing regime should be extended to cover conveyance of all other Classes of dangerous goods. A requirement for mandatory training of the vehicle drivers should also be introduced.
(h) A registration system for Class 1 dangerous goods (i.e. explosives and blasting agents) should be introduced in line with the control framework and legislative arrangements in our major trading partners such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
In order to implement the above proposals, we propose to amend the Dangerous Goods Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation. The Bill contains the necessary amendments to the principal Ordinance, including specific provisions for the implementation of 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 have consulted the Dangerous Goods Standing Committee on the proposals and obtained its support. A public consultation exercise was conducted in March last 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 in October last year, which indicated its understanding and support for the amendments. The Bill was introduced into the Legislative Council on 1 December 1999, but lapsed at the end of the 1999/2000 legislative session before the Legislative Council had time to scrutinize it. Re-introduction of the Bill is necessary.
Madam President, with these remarks, I beg to move.
End/Wednesday, November 1, 2000