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NCOP Briefed on Hydrographic Bill

November 7, 2019

Department of Defence

7 November 2019

The defence department recently briefed the select committee on security and justice on the Hydrographic Bill.

The bill was passed by the national assembly and sent to the national council of provinces for concurrence at the end of October 2018.

The select committee called for comment on the proposed legislation in February 2019.

However, the bill lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament.

The national council of provinces revived the bill in October 2019.

The bill was tabled in parliament at the beginning of June 2018.

It aims to:


• provide for the establishment of the Hydrographic Office;
• provide for its objects, functions and the manner in which it is to be managed;
• provide for the appointment and powers of the Hydrographer and the staff in the Hydrographic Office;
• regulate the submission of hydrographic data;
• regulate the manner in which hydrographic survey marks and copyrights may be protected;
• provide for the limitation of civil liability;
• provide for the manner in which the income of the Hydrographic Office must be dealt with;
• provide for co-operation agreements; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The setting up of the Hydrographic Office, currently within the South African National Defence Force, will enable it to continue to exist as a unit in the South African Navy.

During its deliberations, the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans inserted new definitions on “hydrographic data” and “user” into the bill.

A new sub-clause 12(1) was also added dealing with the liability of the Hydrographic Office in the event of gross negligence or a willful act or omission relating to the use of any nautical publication or nautical charts produced and sold by the Hydrographic Office.

In the briefing, the department described Hydrography as the “branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers”.

The Defence Review of 2014 called for South Africa’s international hydrographic and nautical charting obligations, responsibilities and liabilities to be set out in national law.

It also indicated that the proposed national legislation must provide for the appointment of the SA Navy Hydrographer as the National Hydrographer.

The budget of the Hydrographic Office will flow from the defence department’s budget.