Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Bill, 1999: Report and Final Stages.

As there are no amendments we will proceed to Fifth Stage.

I seek clarification. We tabled amendments on Committee Stage and received assurances from the Minister. What is the position on those assurances?

No amendments have been offered on Report Stage.

I accept that but surely we can comment on the Bill before we proceed to Fifth Stage.

The Deputy may comment on Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

On the point raised by Deputy Finucane I understand the Minister for Marine and Natural Resources will take the required action by regulations to meet the matters raised.

I thank Deputies Finucane and Bell for their assistance in getting the Bill through the House in a speedy manner. A large number of amendments were tabled on Committee Stage, some of which were substantial. While they were significant in detail, particularly those to the part of the Bill which provides for the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, the Bill is considerably strengthened as a result of their inclusion. Deputy Bell tabled two important amendments which the Minister was happy to accept. I thank the Deputies for their helpful and constructive approach to this important Bill on all Stages. The Minister looks forward to bringing it to the Seanad. Regrettably, he is unable to be present.

Apart from providing for the establishment of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board and associated powers, the Bill is important in that it also provides for the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, to enable the Minister to provide a legislative framework to regulate the use of recreational craft, including jet-skis and fast-powered craft. The amendment has been designed to provide the legislative framework recommended by the action group on small powered recreational craft in its report presented on 18 April 2000. As a result the Minister will be empowered to regulate for the safety of recreational craft, their occupants and, most significantly, other persons and property from injury or damage caused by or resulting from the use of recreational craft.This meets the needs of Opposition Deputies. The Minister recognises this issue, as I did when Minister, and this will allow for worthwhile developments.

I thank the Minister. He is aware of the safety factor involved in all kinds of craft. This Bill focuses on jet skis, power boats and pleasure craft. Investigations are taking place regarding activity centres and I presume legislation will be introduced by the end of the year to deal with this sector. There was a recent boating tragedy off County Louth and when Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Woods indicated he would make life jackets compulsory on vessels. Will the Minister clarify this issue as I have received communications which are borne out by a series of incidents?

In 1999, four Air Corps personnel were killed in a tragic accident off County Waterford. The parents of one of the deceased wrote to me concerning the fact that people are going out on boats without flares, radios, radar and even life jackets. The lives of rescue personnel are being put at risk by people behaving in a foolhardy manner. Waterford has been a focal point concerning the issue of safety because four lives were tragically lost at Tramore, Ross Davies tragically lost his life at the adventure centre in Dunmore East and there was the incident off County Louth. Will the Minister clarify what regulations regarding sailing or pleasure craft will be in place for the summer? What regulations are in place and when do officials intend to have regulations implemented for pleasure craft or jet skis? This is a growth business and many young people use these lethal machines. How will this issue be catered for under by-laws if a person on a jet ski is half a mile off the coast? We sought clarification on these issues on Committee Stage?

The heads of the Bill dealing with adventure centres are expected to go before Cabinet within the next two weeks. The regulations will be introduced as soon as this legislation is passed and they will cover age limits and life jackets. They will define dangerous driving and deal with other issues mentioned by the Deputy. The regulations will be available during the summer if not at the beginning of the summer. It depends on the speed at which legislation is passed. Work is under way on the regulations and they will be introduced as speedily as possible.

Question put and agreed to.