Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Bill, 1952—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 11 stand part of the Bill."

I hesitate to check this runaway chase, but the safety of life at sea is involved and perhaps I should be justified in asking a question. This section will cover drill for the saving of life, and at present on the Irish cross-Channel steamers, so far as I can find out, such drill is almost never held. I should like to urge the Parliamentary Secretary, in administering this section, to see that, perhaps once a week, such drill is held on these steamers.

There are quite a number of passengers who cross quite frequently and they will get practice in this drill, and it would be a very great help to the ships' officers if there were a number of regular passengers so instructed. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary that he should do everything possible to see that cross-Channel steamers have this drill at least once a week in such circumstances as would cause the least disturbance to the passengers.

Is it possible for the Minister to have any control on what is done by foreign registered ships? Many of these ships are not Irish registered.

I think that in the Bill certain powers are given to the Minister over ships calling at our ports, even though they may be registered elsewhere. I think it is Section 37 which gives him that power.

There is provision in the Bill for the control of foreign registered ships while they are in our ports. With regard to the point raised by Senator Stanford, there is also provision for the carrying out of certain drills which I think is recommended as weekly in the case of passenger ships and monthly in the case of cargo ships. This is an enabling Bill and the Minister will have power to make rules and prescribe certain regulations under it. I can assure the Senator that in so far as it can be achieved, these cross-Channel steamers will be required to have that drill carried out at least once a week in accordance with the recommendations of the convention.

Question agreed to.

Sections 12 to 36, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 37 stand part of the Bill."

In this section I think some provision should be made to guarantee compensation to ships which go to the aid of other ships. It will make it rather tempting for captains to turn a blind eye to the telescope in doubtful cases if they know they will lose valuable shipping time and may be involved in considerable loss by going to the help of ships. If, on the other hand, they are assured of adequate compensation, there will be no risk of that happening. I suggest the Parliamentary Secretary might consider some clause offering compensation for the loss which is likely to be incurred in such cases.

Mr. Lynch

If such provision were put into the Bill it might lead to an uneasiness with ships going on bogus calls and claiming compensation. I think general agreements amongst shipping companies and owners which provide facilities in regard to compensation in such cases are adequate and I am advised that no case has been made for the payment of this compensation under the 1948 Convention which forms the basis for this legislation. The Senator will see that at the end of Section 36. In Section 2, which also deals with distress, provision is made for compensation by way of salvage, which has been the normal method.

Question agreed to.

Sections 38 to 47, inclusive, the First Schedule, Second Schedule and Title, agreed to.
Agreed, to take the remaining stages to-day.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whether the convention has been accepted by many other countries?

Mr. Lynch

The convention has been accepted in 17 other countries. The conference in connection with the convention was held in 1948 and the convention was signed by the delegates of 28 nations. It was provided that the convention would come into operation 12 months after 15 countries, including seven with not less than 1,000,000 gross tonnage of shipping, had signed it, and it has been accepted by 16 countries so far. The convention came into force on the 14th November, 1952. So far as this country is concerned this legislation is necessary here.

This is an example of international co-operation on an important matter.

Mr. Lynch

On Second Reading, Senator Stanford raised the matter of pollution of waters, and the Minister asked me to refer to it in particular before leaving the House.

The indiscriminate discharge of oil into territorial waters is prohibited by the Oil In Navigable Waters Act, 1926. Between the months of May and August of this year complaints had, in fact, been received from the Irish Tourist Board and certain local bodies that the east, south and south-west coasts were being polluted by deposits of oily substances. In the absence of evidence that these oily substances came from our own shores it was impossible to employ the Oil In Navigable Waters Act, 1926, to deal with them. The attention of ship-owners, masters and other shipping interests was, however, drawn by an official notice to the necessity for strict compliance with the provisions of the Act, and they were urged to ensure that oil or oil sludge should not be discharged within 50 miles off the Irish coast.

The problem, however, I believe, is not peculiar to this country. It has been under consideration by many countries over a number of years, and in recent years the problem has become more acute, due, it is thought, to a combination of factors—the large increase in oil-burning ships, break-up of tankers sunk during the war, the large-scale importation of crude oil to the newly established British and continental refineries and the practice that they have of dumping at sea deposits of sludge which accumulate in the tanks of oil-tankers.

The question is at present under consideration by the Economic and Social Council of U.N.O. We are not members of U.N.O., but the British Minister of Transport, in pursuance of a recommendation there, has set up a committee of experts to consider what practical measures can be taken to prevent pollution of the waters around the coast of Britain.

In reply to an inquiry from the British authorities, it was indicated that if it would be of assistance to their inquiries, samples of deposits could be obtained from the affected areas on the Irish coast and sent to them. The British, I have been informed, have now indicated that they will be glad to be furnished with samples collected along the Irish coast and arrangements are being made to send these samples accordingly.

Question put and agreed to.