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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 16 Oct 2002

Vol. 555 No. 3

Sea Pollution (Hazardous and Noxious Substances) (Civil Liability and Compensation) Bill, 2000: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Bill gives effect in Irish law to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the carriage of hazardous and noxious substances by sea, 1996, the HNS convention. The Bill also gives effect to the 1996 protocol to the International Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, LLMC 1976.

The main objective of the HNS convention is to provide adequate, prompt and effective compensation for loss or damage arising in connec tion with the carriage of HNS on seagoing ships. The convention complements arrangements which have been in place since 1969 regarding civil liability and compensation in regard to oil pollution. The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) Acts, 1988 to 1998, gave effect to those arrangements in domestic law.

The HNS convention is to apply to loss of life or personal injury; loss of or damage to property; environmental damage; and costs of preventative measures. LLMC 1976 establishes the basis on which claims may be made arising out of the various risks accompanying maritime transport. It also establishes how they may be prosecuted and sets maximum aggregate limits depending on the tonnage of vessel in question for claims arising from any one incident. The Merchant Shipping (Liability of Shipowners and Others) Act, 1996, gives effect to LLMC 1976 in domestic law.

The 1996 hazardous and noxious substances conference considered, however, that these limits would not be sufficient to provide adequate compensation for claims likely to arise under the new HNS convention and contemporaneously agreed the proposed protocol which would increase the limits. The effect of the Bill is to require Irish vessels everywhere, and non-Irish vessels within a 200 mile nautical limit, in accordance with the terms of the HNS convention, which are carrying hazardous and noxious substances, as defined, to carry compulsory insurance for the amount they may be liable to pay in compensation for any loss or damage caused by those substances.

These are listed in the convention and include such materials as liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas, oils and fats, combustible chemicals, solvents etc., but exclude radioactive materials which are covered under a separate convention. The deliberate discharge of any of these materials into the sea is already a criminal offence under the Sea Pollution Acts, 1991 to 1999. The Bill provides for enforcement by, among others, the Garda, the Defence Forces and harbour masters.

Penalties for non-compliance with the compulsory insurance requirements are on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £1,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both, or on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both. These penalties are similar to those set out in sea pollution legislation.

These amounts, as Deputies will have noted, are stated in punts which reflected the currency prevailing at the date of publication of the Bill. I propose to introduce amendments on Committee Stage to reflect the introduction of the euro.

Debate adjourned.