Written Answers. - Marine Accidents.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

117 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the number of lives lost at sea in the past 12 months; the measures, if any, his Department will take to improve safety on coasts and seas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26790/98]

The number of bodies recovered from the sea during the 12 month period up to 4 December 1998 in which Irish Marine Emergency Services, IMES, search and rescue resources were involved or notification was provided to IMES was 37. This figure accounts for man overboards, missing persons, cliff fallers, boating accidents and for swimming incidents where bodies were recovered from the sea only. It should be noted that this figure only accounts for incidents which were notified to IMES and does not include body recovery from rivers or lakes and other sea drownings which may not have been notified to IMES.

My Department's strategy statement dealing with marine safety aims to ensure the highest levels of safety at sea, through an appropriate combination of statutory regulation and safety awareness promotion. The aims are to ensure that vessels on the Irish flag or operating to or from or in Ireland are constructed, maintained and operated to accepted international safety standards; to prevent loss of life at sea through promoting awareness of marine safety; to ensure the provision of an efficient and effective marine emergency service through public and voluntary bodies, to provide effective co-ordination for those services and to co-operate effectively with other States in that operation of emergency services; to ensure that adequate navigational aids and communications networks are provided, and to support the adoption of high safety standards by the IMO, the EU and other international organisations.

Since becoming Minister with responsibility for safety at sea, I have developed a comprehensive programme of work over the next three years which will update our maritime law and will keep Ireland to the forefrontvis-à-vis best international practice.
A priority remains to implement the recommendations of the fishing vessel safety review group to minimise the risk of loss of life among the fishing community. I am taking steps to ensure accelerated progress with regard to the introduction of improvements in the areas of fleet development, safety training, on-shore marine radio communications and safety awareness, and a programme is under way to underpin the development of a safety culture in the fishing sector through the introduction of the comprehensive safety regulations recommended by the review group.
I also intend over this period to implement all relevant International Maritime Organisation Safety Conventions, including amendments to the SOLAS, Safety of Life at Sea, and STCW, Standards of Training Certification of Watchkeeping for Seafarers, Conventions and to give continued support to the IMO in the way of professional contributions to international negotiations. In this regard, the International Safety Management, ISM, code, which puts in place a mandatory safety management system on board vessels, came into operation for certain vessels from July of this year. All relevant Irish vessels have been certified and my Department's marine surveyors, as port state control officers, have a major role to play on the international front to ensure that foreign vessels, including ferries visiting Irish ports, comply with this code in an attempt to eliminate sub-standard shipping worldwide.
The marine survey office of my Department also operates a year round programme of surveys and inspections of Irish-registered passenger and cargo vessels to ensure that these vessels are equipped, maintained and inspected to the highest international standards. Foreign registered vessels using Irish ports are also inspected regularly in exercise of Ireland's obligations as a port state.
I am committed also to implementing all EU directives on safety matters as they arise, to amending merchant shipping legislation as necessary, to initiating a new marine casualty investigation system, to bringing proposals to Government for developing and resourcing the Irish Marine Emergency Service as a coastguard and to ensuring co-operation with other marine safety agencies in extending-developing their safety infrastructures.
In conjunction with the appropriate statutory and voluntary bodies, my Department is committed to an ongoing safety awareness programme among the marine community at all levels in order that loss of life and marine casualties can be avoided as far as possible.