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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 7 Feb 1979

Vol. 311 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ratification of Conventions.


asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport when legislation will be introduced in the Dáil to ratify the SOLAS Convention.

(Dublin South-Central): I cannot state at this stage when I will be in a position to introduce legislation to give the provisions of the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea the force of law. The matter is receiving attention in my Department.

What major changes will be required in existing law in order to ratify this?

(Dublin South-Central): Major changes of a highly technical nature will be necessary and I am informed by my Department that it will take a considerable length of time.

Are all the changes technical, or are there any changes in the basic concept of the law as it applies at the moment?

(Dublin South-Central): Certain changes will be necessary as regards the safety of ports and things like that. I am informed that only about 14 of 25 countries have introduced legislation to give effect to the convention at the moment.

Has the Minister studied the convention?

(Dublin South-Central): I have.

Will the Minister give a broad outline of what is involved?

(Dublin South-Central): I have not got the full details with me.

Does the Minister have an idea of what is involved?

(Dublin South-Central): It is of quite a technical nature.

Is it all technical?

(Dublin South-Central): A lot of it is and it would require rather technical legislation.


asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport when legislation will be introduced to ratify the MARPOL Convention.

(Dublin South-Central): I cannot give any indication when legislation will be introduced to give the provisions of the 1973 Marine Pollution Convention the force of law. No major maritime country has yet ratified the convention. Only three countries have in fact done so and I am advised that there are significant technological problems in giving effect to the convention. The matter is being kept under review.

In view of the fact that we were specifically requested by the EEC to ratify both of these conventions and in view of the fact that an official of the Department, at the Transport Council meeting on 12 June, informed the partners in the EEC that we would not be in a position to prepare legislation on either of these conventions, could the Minister indicate if he feels he has the necessary technical and administrative resources in his Department to draft this legislation and, if not, if he is prepared to seek these resources and comply with our obligations within the EEC?

(Dublin South-Central): We are examining the resources of the Department at present to try to ensure that we have sufficient resources to introduce this type of legislation. I can assure the Deputy that, of the large number of countries required to ratify this convention, none of the major fishing countries could implement it and they have not ratified it because of the major technological problems involved. The only countries who have implemented this are Jordan, Kenya and Tunisia, out of 35 other countries. I cannot give any indication of when we would be in a position to implement legislation to give effect to this convention.

Since the Minister cannot give us any indication as to when we can introduce legislation to ratify either MARPOL or SOLAS, will the Minister say if he is satisfied with the level of resources at present in his Department and will he indicate what concrete steps are being taken to ensure that we can draft this legislation within a period that will enable his senior Minister to report to the Transport Ministers meeting?

(Dublin South-Central): Steps have been taken to strengthen this section of the Department and these are at an advanced stage.

I am aware that steps are being taken. Will the Minister indicate precisely what steps have been taken, how many people are involved, when they are likely to be recruited and when we can see legislation here?

That is material for another question.

(Dublin South-Central): I cannot give an answer to that, because this must be done in consultation with the Department of the Public Service.

What will be the extent of our jurisdiction in respect of marine pollution? Will it be 200 miles, 50 miles or right to the area of jurisdiction of the next country across the sea?

That is a separate question.

(Dublin South-Central): I have not got that information.

The question asked when legislation would be introduced to ratify the convention.

Would the Chair not agree that the area to be covered by the legislation comes under this?

I accept that there are major constrictions on the Department not necessarily of the Minister's making. Does the commitment of the Department to the initiation of the Whiddy inquiry, involving the presence of a certain official of his Department in Bantry, seriously delay the progress of this legislation within the Department?

(Dublin South-Central): The allocation of this officer to the Whiddy inquiry is a short-term allocation and the presence of this person alone would not resolve the whole problem. We are at present strengthening this section of the Department.

Would the Minister agree that this is a personnel deficiency of approximately 30 per cent relative to the drafting of this legislation?

(Dublin South-Central): I agree, but we find ourselves in this situation because of restrictions placed by the last Government on recruitment.

How long has the Minister been in office?

I thought we would get to that at some stage.

(Dublin South-Central): All these restrictions were placed during the Coalition term of office.

Is the Minister suggesting that he could not have filled a post if he wanted to in the last year and a half?

(Dublin South-Central): It is not just in this section but right through the Department that we have this situation.

With all due respect——

Order. We have spent a long time on this question. It does not justify holding up all the other questions.