Wednesday 10 November 2010, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) - Development and implementation of maritime law in the Pacific is critical to ensuring that Pacific countries continue to have access to safe shipping, employment and uninterrupted international sea trade.

This is not a simple task, given the resource and expertise constraints that continue to affect developments in this area.

To assist member countries, SPC's Economic Development Division (EDD) organised a workshop on maritime policy and legislative drafting from 1-4 November 2010 in Suva, Fiji, using the expertise of the Pacific International Maritime Law Association (PIMLA).

The workshop was attended by 16 maritime lawyers from the region, including the solicitor generals of Cook Islands and Kiribati, all of whom are members of PIMLA.

The lead facilitator for the workshop was Ms Teleiai Lalotoa Mulitalo, a legislative drafting consultant and member of PIMLA. Other regional experts included Mr Clark Peteru, Environment Legal Adviser for SPREP, who gave a presentation on adapting international environmental conventions to the Pacific context and the various methods of adoption by Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs).

The theme of the workshop was: legal pluralism - our realities. Legal pluralism is a new legal theory used in legislative drafting. It recognises the realities of having customary laws as well as introduced western laws, as is the case in PICTs.

In his opening speech, Mr Tufuga Fagaloa Tufuga, Regional Maritime Legal Adviser at SPC EDD, emphasised the importance of taking legal pluralism into consideration when drafting legislation.
'The challenge for maritime lawyers in the region is how best they can incorporate this theory into practice, given the existence of two or more legal systems in a society,' said Mr Tufuga.

SPC organised a similar workshop in July 2008. While the first workshop explored methodologies of drafting legislation from New Zealand and Australian perspectives, this workshop sought to study drafting methodologies from other internationally recognised legislative drafting authorities, such as GC Thornton.

The workshop also focused on maritime policy issues in the Pacific. Papua New Guinea is the first Pacific Island country in the region to have a transport policy that incorporates maritime policy. Other Pacific countries are at various stages of developing maritime or transport policies. It is fundamental for maritime policies to be clear and focused, as this will assist legal drafters in their work. Samoa's Legislative Drafting Handbook 2008 was discussed as an example of best practice in the region and other PICTs were urged to adopt a similar approach to expedite their drafting of laws.

The Fifth Annual General Meeting of PIMLA was held on 4 November in Suva, Fiji straight after the workshop. Members of PIMLA who had attended the workshop convened to discuss association business matters and move their plan of action forward.

SPC has been providing secretariat services to PIMLA since 2005.