Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Bill, 1952 (Seanad)—Second Stage.

I move that this Bill be now read a Second Time. The House is aware that this Bill has already been passed by the Seanad in which it was introduced. Its purpose is to implement the 1948 international convention for the safety of life at sea. That convention was signed in 1948 by the delegates of the Irish Government and came into force last month. All shipping and labour interests in the State were fully consulted before the conference in 1948, and were again consulted during the preparation of the Bill. This is an agreed measure so far as the industry is concerned.

I assume that the Dáil will not require me to give a close analysis of its provisions which are very technical in character. The Bill, as those who have read it will know, is mainly an enabling Bill. The Orders which may be made under it can be annulled by the Oireachtas. I have given an assurance to the industry that, if these Orders should at any time go beyond the strict requirements of the convention, they will not be made without full consultation with the ship-owners and traders concerned.

There is only one matter that I want to raise. This Bill, as the Minister has said, is an enabling Bill and provides for regulations to deal with the safety of life at sea. There is one problem which has caused a good deal of trouble around the coast this year. I do not know whether it arises directly on this Bill, but there is a provision in it for the use of oil as a safety precaution. The point that I want to bring to the Minister's notice is that almost all the bathing resorts this year were rendered unsuitable for swimming by reason of the presence of oil and, in some cases, of tar in close proximity to the coast. I understand that there is a regulation which prevents ships from discharging oil, tar or any other obnoxious substance within close proximity of the coastline. That regulation, however, appears this year to have been more honoured in the breach than in the observance, and so a great number of coastal areas were affected by the presence of oil or tar. I would be glad if the Minister would give the matter consideration.

I may say that the problem to which the Deputy has referred is not, of course, confined to this country. In the south of England and in certain European countries, the same unpleasant experience has arisen. There are regulations prohibiting the discharge of oil in estuaries and harbours here, but, of course, we cannot, by our own law, control anything which is outside our own territory. I have communicated with all the shipping lines using our ports requesting them not to discharge oil or clean bunkers within 50 miles of the coast. It must be appreciated, however, that the problem is not caused solely or mainly even by ships calling to this country.

Did the Minister say 15 or 50 miles?

Fifty miles.

That would be difficult to enforce.

It was only a request. There is an international committee investigating what can be done by an international regulation to control the nuisance. A recent investigation carried out by the British Government has indicated that the cleaning of the tanks of oil tankers in the middle of the Atlantic has resulted in the accumulation of pitch and tar on certain European coasts and certain investigations are proceeding as to the drift of currents, and so forth, with a view to ascertaining whether some benefit would arise from prohibiting the cleaning of oil tankers in certain parts of the ocean. It is obviously something which we cannot remedy by ourselves and, as I say, it is under consideration by this committee.

Have we a representative on the committee?

It is a U.N.O. committee.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages now.