Cuireann sé áthas agus — focail níos láidre — gliondar croí orm an Bille seo a chur os comhair na Dáil ag an am seo. Tá a fhios ag an Teach go bhfuil clár cuimsitheach násiúnta don chomhshaol fógraithe ag mo chara, an tAire Comhshaoil, cheana féin, agus mar atá a fhios ag an Teach freisin, tá Comhdháil na hEorpa anseo i Baile Átha Cliath tar éis sórt rosc catha, an rosc catha is fiúntaí ar bith, a chur amach ar chúrsaí comhshaoil san Eoraip.
In the context of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, having declared Ireland's Presidency of the EC to be a Green Presidency, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to bring before the House this Bill, the Sea Pollution Bill.
The Environment Action Programme includes a commitment to terminate indiscriminate disposal of ships' waste in the marine environment; this Bill endorses that commitment by addressing the problems relating to protection of the marine environment from pollution by ships. I look forward to constructive and thorough consideration of the Bill. Initially, I propose to give a short background to the Bill. The Oil Pollution of the Sea Act, 1956, gave effect to the first multilateral instrument on protection of the marine environment, namely the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954. The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1965, gave effect to certain amendments to the 1954 convention. The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1977, gave effect to further amendments to the 1954 Convention and to the International Convention relating to Intervention on the High Seas in cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, 1969.
Ireland attended the Diplomatic Conference held by the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation — IMCO, subsequently re-named International Maritime Organisation, IMO — which adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 and signed the convention, subject to ratification, in 1974.
The Protocol relating to Intervention on the High Seas in cases of Marine Pollution by Substances other than Oil, 1973, was adopted at the same conference. Thereby, it was hoped that the objective of complete elimination of intentional pollution of the marine environment by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharges of such substances would be achieved.
The expression "MARPOL 73/78" emerged following the adoption of a protocol of 1978 which made minor modifications to the 1973 Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.
The main purpose of the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990, is to up-date existing legislation on the prevention of pollution from ships and on intervention with ships following upon a maritime casualty, as enshrined in our Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts, 1956 to 1977. These Acts govern pollution by oil but we all know that as the world becomes more industrialised more dangerous substances being transported by sea are polluting the marine environment. Our legislation must also take cognisance of current trends in the shipping industry, namely, the dramatic increase in the size of ships, in particular of oil tankers; the "lame ducks" in an ageing world fleet; the emergence of offshore registries and Third World low-cost crews; the reduction in manning levels due to modern technology and performance pressures from shipowners or managers. Ireland's geographical location on the periphery of Europe with the Atlantic Ocean lying to the west, south-west and south and at the apex of one of the busiest ocean-trading routes in the world leaves her vulnerable to maritime casualties. We must also remember that it is our relatively unpolluted waters that attract foreign tourists to this country. We must endeavour to avoid casualties occuring in our territorial waters; the resulting pollution of our waters and blight of our shore environment with wrecks must be avoided.
In order to prevent or control pollution that may be caused by ships the State's powers need to be strengthened. The international treaty, commonly known as MARPOL 73/78, considered to be the most ambitious international treaty covering marine pollution ever adopted and the international treaties on intervention on the high seas give the scope to do so. We are indebted to the International Maritime Organisation for the adoption of the treaties in question. The IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations, wholly dedicated to maritime affairs and with the twin goals of cleaner oceans and safer seas.
The question Deputies may wish to ask is, "Why the need to become party to further international treaties?" The answers are simple. The conventions, protocols and resolutions of the IMO reflect the concerns and interests of over 130 states; the IMO is the international body which has developed the "rules of the road" as it were, for the high seas and commands the respect and recognition to press for universal acceptance of these rules. Ireland needs the support of such an organisation in its endeavours to protect its marine environment from pollution from ships and the disposal of ships' wastes at sea.
The main objective of MARPOL 73/78 is to reduce to a minimum, and in certain instances prohibit, the operational discharge of marine pollutants from ships, through the establishment of operational discharge criteria and procedures, and construction and equipment standards. Provision is made for a regime whereby violations of the international rules and standards are prohibited and punished with sufficient severity to discourage future violations.
The convention itself comprises five annexes which are, effectively, the regulations laid down for the prevention of pollution by oil; by noxious liquid substances in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged forms or in freight containers, portable tanks or road and rail tank wagons; by sewage from ships and garbage from ships.
Each annex deals exclusively with all aspects of its subject pollutant such as vessel construction and equipment, survey, certification, discharge control and reception facilities to be provided at ports for disposal of waste.
All countries which become party to MARPOL 73/78 must adopt Annexes 1 and 2 relating to oil and noxious liquid substances in bulk, respectively; Annexes 3, 4 and 5-relating to harmful substances in packaged forms, sewage and garbage are optional. Acceptance of Annexes 1 and 2 is obligatory because of the more deleterious effects of oil and noxious liquid substances. Liability and compensation for pollution damage caused by discharges of persistent oil from a ship carrying oil in bulk as cargo, or discharges from its bunkers, are covered by the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) Act, 1988. We are adopting all five.
The Intervention treaties provide that, following a maritime casualty, contracting parties may take such measures on the high seas as may be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to their coastline or related interests from pollution, or threat of pollution, by oil and other substances which are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities, or to interefere with other legitimate uses of the sea.
MARPOL 73/78, its Annexes, 1 oil, 2 noxious liquid substances, and 5 garbage from ships, and the Intervention Convention and Protocol are in force internationally. Annexes, 3 harmful substances in packaged forms and 4 sewage from ships which are optional, will not come into force internationally until they have been ratified or acceded to by countries representing over 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet. Current ratification or accession to these two instruments stands at approximately 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, for world shipping tonnage.
The principal provisions of the Bill are as follows: section 10 enables the Minister to prohibit or regulate the operational discharge of oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances carried in bulk — for example hazardous chemicals — harmful substances carried in packaged forms, sewage or garbage from Irish-registered ships anywhere at sea and from other ships whilst in the territorial waters of the State. The Minister may apply similar controls to other substances prescribed by him as being harmful, if introduced into the marine environment and he may require the owner or master of a ship to notify him of the intention to load or unload any of these substances in the State.
Section 12 enables the Minister to require harbours in the State to have adequate facilities for the discharge or disposal of ships' waste. Harbours may make reasonable charges and impose reasonable conditions for use of the facilities provided.
Sections 14 and 15 enable the Minister to require an Irish registered ship to be constructed, fitted or operated in such a way as to prevent, control or reduce discharges into the sea and to keep such records of discharges of harmful substances as he prescribes. Such records would relate to operations on board ship in respect of any substance, discharges made to secure the safety of the ship or to save life or discharges in excess of the quantity, if any, permitted.
Section 17 enables the Minister to have surveyors of ships, or inspectors appointed by him under warrant, to carry out surveys, inspections and tests to ensure compliance with MARPOL standards laid down by him for ships, their equipment and fittings. He may also cause to be issued in respect of a ship a certificate of compliance with requirements.
Section 23 permits a harbour master to refuse entry into a harbour if he believes a ship not to be in compliance with certificate requirements or to be a serious threat to the environment, the harbour or other ships. This section also enables the Minister to require the owners or masters of all ships, or any classes of ship, to give notice of entry or intended entry into Irish territorial waters.
Section 26 permits the Minister, following upon a maritime casualty, to take such measures as he considers necessary, to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to the coastline or related interests for example, fisheries activities or tourist attractions, from pollution or a threat of pollution. The Minister is entitled to recover expenses incurred in such intervention from the owner of the ship.
Section 29 lays down the penalties for breach of the requirements of the Bill, when enacted, or any regulations made thereunder. Penalties range from a maximum of £1,000 or imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both, on summary conviction and a maximum of £10 million or imprisonment up to five years, or both, on conviction on indictment.
Parts II and III of the Bill which deal with prevention of pollution and enforcement are fundamentally the framework within which regulations to give effect to the five MARPOL Annexes will be effected.
Parts I and IV deal with the more standard provisions of a Bill. Section 4 of Part I provides for the exemption of warships from the scope of the Act. This is in keeping with both the MARPOL and Intervention Conventions and our own Oil Pollution of the Sea Act, 1956. Foreign naval vessels are entitled under international law to transit the territorial waters of another state in exercise of a right of innocent passage. Specific authorisation to exercised this right or to give notification that it has been exercised is not necessary. However, where a foreign naval vessel wishes to visit an Irish port the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is necessary before the visit can take place. Permission is normally granted provided the visit does not form part of a naval exercise and nuclear weapons are not being carried.
There has been an enormous increase in environmental awareness and concern for the environment over the past few years, particularly among the yonger generation. In the marine area attention is being focused on the threat to the environment and to fish stocks and mammals of pollution from ships in the form of oil discharges and persistent forms of garbage, in particular plastics, including synthetic ropes and fishing nets and refuse bags. These pollutants are offensive from an aesthetic point of view as they come ashore with the tide and spoil beaches and beauty spots on the coastline. They are also offensive from an economic point of view in that they affect local fishing and aquaculture industries as well as tourism, water-based leisure activities and public amenities generally.
Marine environmental awareness was heightened this year with the launch of the Government's Environment Action Programme and the commitment to require harbour authorities to install facilities for receiving ships' waste and thus enable Ireland to become a party to the MARPOL Convention. Facilities must be adequate to meet the needs of the ships using them without causing undue delay. The issue of a poster by the Department of the Marine in conjunction with the Wildlife Service at the end of 1989 to schools as well as to shipping and fisheries interests and which illustrated the cruel, harmful and oftentimes fatal effects of plastics on fish and marine mammals further highlighted the hazards of ships' waste.
I have a copy of that poster, which has proved very effective, with me and I will just show it to the House. It is a good quality poster and contains four illustrations of the damage done by waste in the sea. The picture in the top left hand corner is of a discarded net and the caption reads "This discarded net has finished fishing, but it hasn't finished killing". The picture in the top right hand corner of beach detritus also illustrates how noisome and filthy the kind of stuff being thrown on beaches is. The picture in the bottom left hand corner — this is a common one — illustrates plastic strangling a fish. In this instance it is the plastic rings which attach to six packs. We can see that it does damage in a way one would never suspect. The picture in the bottom right hand corner illustrates plastic being eaten as it resembles natural food in water. Of course this kills the fish. The reaction we got was very good and indicates that it helped the campaign with regard to the control of waste and pollutants generally. It is not surprising, therefore, that MARPOL has come to be associated with garbage from ships and that the younger generation speak quite knowledgeably of Annex 5 which relates to the prevention of pollution from garbage.
MARPOL strictly prohibits the disposal of plastics at sea; they must be deposited in receptacled at port. As the House is aware, plastics are non-biodegradable; once thrown into the sea they are extremely persistent and potentially harmful if ingested by seabirds and marine mammals. They also cause fish to choke when they eat them. In framing regulations under the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990 to cover Annex 5 the disposal of plastics at sea will be prohibited. Stringent conditions will apply to the discharge and ultimate disposal of other wastes from ships, in particular food waste. The ultimate disposal of discharged waste must be undertaken with regard to wider concerns. In disposing of oily residues every effort will be made to ensure recycling and the disposal of food waste or "swill" must take place within the requirements of the animal diseases regulations of the Department of Agriculture. In compliance with the Environment Action Programme and in anticipation of the passage of the new legislation commercial and fishery harbours have been asked to provide, as I have mentioned, reception facilities to meet the demands of ship and fishing vessel operators coming into port. Consultations with Irish shipping interests are also ongoing with a view to ascertaining their requirements.
There are other very important benefits accruing from passage of the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990. At the top of the list must be the State's enhanced powers to deal with offending foreign ships coming into its territorial waters. Masters of ships which are not constructed, equipped or operated to MARPOL standards will not be anxious to risk inspection, detention and penalty for unseaworthiness or deficiencies. This could have the effect of reducing the number of damaged vessels seeking refuge in ports off our south-west and north-west coasts.
I should at this stage make it clear that the Bill before the House does not cut across my Department's policy in search and rescue. Safety of life at sea still remains paramount and it may be necessary at times to admit troubled ships into territorial waters or harbours for the purpose of saving life. Section 11 of the Bill permits discharge into the sea of harmful substances where it is necessary for the purpose of saving life at sea. However, a record must be kept of such a discharge. The House will recall the trouble with the Tribulus earlier this year and, if I may say so, my Department handled that matter very well as did Shell, who own the Tribulus.
Equally important will be the benefit to Irish shipowners. By virtue of holding MARPOL certificates they will no longer be embarrassed by subjection to stringent inspection and delay while in MARPOL Convention countries; any such inspection will now be limited to verifying that there is on board a valid MARPOL certificate. Ireland is the only EC maritime member state and the only state party to the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control not to have ratified or acceded to MARPOL 73/78. Under this memorandum of understanding each of the 14 member states undertakes to achieve an annual total of inspections of foreign-registered ships entering its ports corresponding to 25 per cent of individual merchant ships. Inspection ensures compliance with the standards laid down in a number of international conventions including the MARPOL Convention.
Ireland will also be assured of the co-operation of other parties to the MARPOL Convention and the International Maritime Organisation in the detection of violations, the enforcement of rules, environmental monitoring and accumulation of evidence against offenders.
The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1977, empowers the Minister to take such action as he considers necessary in relation to a ship or its cargo for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating the effects of oil pollution arising from a maritime casualty. The Minister may only exercise these powers in respect of an Irish-registered ship anywhere at sea; any other ship while in the territorial waters of the State or, following a Government Order, any ship registered in a country which is party to the Intervention Convention, 1969, while outside the territorial waters of the State. The Minister must exercise his powers of intervention with discretion. There must be grave and imminent danger of major harmful consequences through pollution by oil to the coastline or related interests. Where a stricken ship is not carrying oil as cargo there must be sufficient threat of danger from bunker or fuel oil to justify intervention. Where it can be established in the case of an Irish-registered ship or any other ship while in the territorial waters of the State that intervention was unreasonable then compensation must be paid.
The Minister used his powers of intervention early in 1989 when the 85,000 ton bulk carrier Yarrawonga, having lost 300 square metres of steel side plating in mid-Atlantic, was abandoned by its crew. Similarly — I mentioned this already — he intervened in February of this year with the holed 122,000 ton bulk carrier Tribulus which limped into Bantry Bay leaking heavy fuel oil. Bantry Bay is now very much involved in mussel farming and that did constitute a grave danger. It was a situation that was handled extremely well.
The Bill before the House strengthens the Minister's powers considerably. The threat of pollution may be from any harmful substance, intervention may be made anywhere at sea and only in the case of Irish-registered and Intervention Convention country-registered ships while in the territorial waters of the State may a case of unreasonable intervention be entertained.
The Bill before the House takes account of lessons learned from past disasters, namely, the need for legislation requiring the owner of a ship to compensate the Minister for expenses of/or incidental to any action taken by him to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger from pollution or a threat of pollution from that ship and the need to have penalties for offences commensurate with damage done. It is intended that clean-up costs would be recoverable by the Minister. At first glance £10 million maximum penalty for conviction on indictment may seem unrealistic or excessive, but when one considers the extent of damage that may be caused by marine pollution it is justifiable. I need hardly remind the House of the $1 billion plus bill which followed the Exxon Valdez 11 million gallon crude oil spill in Alaska last year.
The remainder of the Bill before the House is concerned with the strengthening of the powers of inspectors — section 21 — and harbour masters — section 25 — in the detection of unauthorised or alleged discharges, defective ships or equipment and standard provisions which are self-explanatory. Section 5 provides that every regulation made under the proposed legislation shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. There will be an opportunity, therefore, for all Deputies to consider the precise terms of the regulations to give effect to the five annexes to the MARPOL Convention.
It has long been held that Ireland should have a compulsory vessel reporting or notification system for all ships entering Irish waters. Such a system is currently in force in respect of fishing trawlers registered in Spain and Portugal, for a transitional period, and in non-EC countries when entering Community waters under Irish control.
The system would be beneficial in protecting the marine environment and also in detecting undesirable ships or cargoes or on security grounds. Section 23 of the Bill enables the Minister to set up such a system should he consider it necessary and enforceable. Alternatively, a system whereby certain classes of ship which are a potential threat to the marine environment — for example, oil tankers — might be required to give advance notification of entry into Irish territorial waters could be considered.
I must say that the Bill before the House is one that will play a vital role in protecting the State's clean marine environmental heritage.
Molaim go léifear an Bille don Dara Uair agus tá súil agam go rachaidh sé chun sochair don tír iomlán.