I presume the Deputy is referring to the proposal by Irish Ferries Limited, to make certain of its seafarers employed on its ships, the MV Ulysses, the MV Isle of Inishmore and the HSC Jonathan Swift, redundant.
Legal advice provided to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, indicates that Irish employment rights legislation applies to workers, national and non-national, on board Irish registered ships. In relation to ships that are not Irish registered, the legal advice indicates that as a general rule the flag state has exclusive right to exercise legislative and enforcement jurisdiction over ships on the high seas.
I am informed by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment that, as it has not received any communication from Irish Ferries regarding the proposed redundancies which were announced to the media on 19 September 2005, it is not in a position to give a definitive opinion on whether redundancies at this company, should they occur, fall within the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003.
Based on media reportage of the proposed redundancies, that Department sought and obtained preliminary advice from the Office of the Attorney General to the effect that redundancies as proposed by the company may not fall within the definition of redundancy in the legislation. However, clarity can only be established if and when the company makes a formal application to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a statutory redundancy rebate.
The Deputy should note that the movement of merchant ships between different ship registers is not unusual, nor is the operation by a shipping company of different ships registered to different states.
It is a normal commercial practice for merchant ships to move between ship registers in the EU's shipping sector. The focus of the European Commission in the area of ship registration is, inter alia, on the elimination of technical barriers to the movement of merchant ships between EU ship registers, and, on the responsible operation of ship registers in relation to safety and environmental matters.
To encourage and facilitate the growth of Community shipping, the Commission has in place unique state aid guidelines for maritime transport. These guidelines allow member states to provide relief in the corporation tax, that is, tonnage tax, income tax and social insurance areas for their ship operators.
The European Commission is also progressing an initiative at present aimed at boosting employment prospects in the community's maritime sector and at attracting young people to the seafaring profession.
The proposal by Irish Ferries Limited to remove ferries from the Irish ship register, and to seek to reflag them to another EU member state's ship register is regrettable. However, provided it is done in accordance with the applicable legal provisions, it cannot be legally prevented, any more than the legitimate movement of businesses or workers between member states, in accordance with applicable law, can be legally prevented.