Mercantile Marine Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is designed to regularise the position in regard to ownership and registry of Irish ships and will also deal with the duties and functions of registrars of shipping, transfer and transmission of ownership, mortgage of ships, national character and flag and survey and tonnage measurement.

It has long been apparent that the law relating to merchant shipping in this country, which consists mainly of adapted British statutes, requires amendment and codification. The law is contained in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and some 20 other enactments amending and extending that Act which, although technically continued in force under Article 73 of the Constitution of 1922, are of imperfect application to the circumstances of this country.

The main Merchant Shipping Act is the Act of 1894 which was intended to cater for the merchant shipping position in all parts of the British Empire as it was at that time. It was enacted to apply to ships belonging to all parts of the then British Empire and applied throughout to "British ships" i.e. ships owned by British subjects and British registered companies and registered in some port in British territory. Under this Act, a ship, no matter in what part of British territory it was registered, remained a British ship from the time of registry until it became a total loss or was sold to non-British ownership and the law applicable to it was the same whenever it came within British jurisdiction. In such a scheme there was no room for the concept of an independent Irish mercantile marine.

Although unsuited to the new status of, and the conditions in, this country on the establishment of the State in 1922, the Merchant Shipping Acts have remained almost unchanged on the Statute Book. This was largely because there was no pressing need for their replacement, as an oceangoing Irish merchant shipping navy had not come into existence before the war. The whole problem assumes a fresh and new importance with the development of an Irish merchant shipping fleet, and with the change in political relations between this country and the former British Commonwealth which was brought about by the Republic of Ireland Act, 1948, and the Ireland Act, 1949.

Many problems are involved in an amendment and codification of the law relating to merchant shipping, many phases of which have international as well as national implications. The preparation and enactment of legislation to cover the whole field of merchant shipping will be a lengthy process. There are over 1,000 sections in the existing code which, however, it is hoped to reduce substantially.

As part of the general codification and amendment of maritime law to meet Irish requirements, the Bill makes provision for the class of ships to be known as Irish ships. It prescribes that these Irish ships must fly national colours as laid down in the Bill and that only Irish ships may fly the colours or assume Irish national character; these provisions are already in Part I of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, as adapted and in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1947.

The Bill provides, in Section 16, that the following classes of persons only shall be unconditionally entitled in law to own Irish ships:—(i) the Government; (ii) a Minister of State; (iii) Irish citizens; (iv) bodies corporate established under and subject to the law of the State and having their principal place of business in the State. The Bill also provides, however, in Section 20, that any ships, whether owned by the foregoing classes of persons or not, which are registered at a port in the State on the date of introduction of the Bill, shall be deemed to be duly registered. This provision is a saver for those persons or corporations which had, in exercise of a previously existing right, registered vessels at Irish ports.

Provision is also made in the Bill, in Section 19, whereby the Government may make Orders granting rights of registry at Irish ports to citizens or companies of other States in which Irish citizens and companies enjoy corresponding privileges, under the law of such States. The making of such Orders will also be subject to the condition that it is in the national interest to do so.

Apart from making specific provision for "Irish ships" as a special status, the main change involved in relation to ownership and registry is that citizens and companies of Britain and Commonwealth countries will not as heretofore automatically be qualified to own and register an Irish ship. They will only be entitled to do so where a reciprocal Order is made by the Government in respect of the State concerned. A new requirement as to registry is that a ship owned by persons qualified to own an Irish ship and acquired after the enactment of this Bill must be registered in the State unless consent is given to its registry outside the State. This is a logical development of existing law which prohibits the transfer of an Irish ship to foreign registry without approval. The inclusion of a provision whereby consent may be given to register outside the State is designed to permit persons qualified to own an Irish ship to acquire ships abroad, in circumstances where entry on or transfer to the Irish register is not practicable, for example, where ships in the registry of another country could not be acquired if transfer to the Irish register were insisted on.

The provisions of Part I of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, in relation to transfers and transmissions of ownership in ships and to shares in a ship and in relation to mortgages will be re-enacted in the Bill without any significant change.

The existing law governing the survey and tonnage measurement of ships is contained in Part I of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. In that Act the procedure for survey and tonnage measurement is set out in considerable detail. While no substantial departure from the existing provisions is contemplated this Bill will include only the main principles of survey and tonnage measurement. Matters of detail will be dealt with by directions to be made from time to time as required. The object of this change is to ensure flexibility. The survey and tonnage measurement of ships is a matter affected by international agreement. The existing rules for survey and tonnage measurement are at present being studied on an international basis and it is likely that the outcome of this study will result in changes being made which will have to be followed by this country. The inclusion of only the main principles of survey and tonnage measurement in the Bill will enable whatever changes are approved of internationally to be put into effect in this country without the necessity of having recourse to further legislation.

This Bill will repeal the Merchant Shipping Act, 1907, Part I of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, together with certain sections of Part II of that Act and of the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1906 and 1947. The repealed sections will be re-enacted with amendments and adaptations as required in this Bill, which represents the first stage of the codification of Irish merchant shipping law.

Nil aon chur i gcoinne an Bhille seo againn mar tuigimid gur gá a leithéid a thabhairt isteach agus nea-spleachas na tíre seo do choiméad in uachtar i gconaí maidir leis na cúrsaí seo, cúrsaí tráchtála chomh maith le cúrsaí eile. Níl anseo, mar a deirim, ach céim eile ar aghaidh chun ár nea-spleachas a thaisbeáint don saol amuich do réir mar a bhéas gá leis. Na hAchtanna seo a ritheadh fadó ag Parlaimint Shasana, mar adúirt an Rúnaí Párlaiminte, tá siad as ionad in a lán slite anois maidir le cúrsaí tráchtála na tíre seo.

I consider this measure a necessary measure in the light of the developments that have taken place here over a number of years. As the Parliamentary Secretary has stated, when the original Acts were passed long ago, especially the Act of 1894, to which reference has been made, there was no concept of an independent mercantile marine for this country. I feel sure that such a thing was never even present to the minds of the farmers of that legislation. Now, however, that we have won independence, dearly-won independence, in this country, we will have from time to time to take what steps we may think necessary to consolidate the independent position we have won and this Bill, therefore, can be described as another link in the chain of the consolidation of our economic independent position here.

The measure makes provision for such things as the registration of Irish ships at our Irish ports. That, of course, is as it should be, from, as I said, the point of view of upholding our economic independence here. There is also involved the transfer of ownership of ships, the execution of mortgages and so on. These will be matters that will arise in the course of the operation of the measure. It is a good thing to see our own Irish ships being registered at our ports and to see the Irish flag flying from those ships, but there is one point I should like to make clear, and it is that it is a pity we would not go the whole hog and have these Irish ships registered in our native language, for all those people who trade on the high seas to see so as to make known to them that we have a language of our own. There would be no better way of doing that than by having the name of the ship emblazoned in Irish characters on the timbers of the vessel. That is a point I should like to make en passant.

I may be regarded in some places as being too extreme in these matters, but we have sometimes to be extreme when it is a question of the recognition of our national position here. We are taking steps to make sure that our independence as a nation will be recognised by people outside, in the matter of the registration of our ships and so on, and I think we should also take steps to ensure that our national language will also be recognised outside as well as at home. It would be just as easy, I submit, to use the Irish equivalents of the names at present being used by Irish Shipping, Limited. I will go no further than that with that point.

It would be appropriate in connection with our consideration of this measure to inquire what progress we are making towards the development of our merchant fleet; the development of our own mercantile marine, which, as Senators may recall, was one of the fundamental aims of Sinn Fein—to make sure that we would have ships here capable of shipping merchandise between this country and countries abroad. We have made some progress, and indeed very good progress within recent years but I think I would be right in saying that there is a certain amount of leeway yet to be made up, and it would be interesting and enlightening if the Parliamentary Secretary would give us an indication of the distance we have gone in providing ocean-going vessels, specialised ships, ships of a specialised nature, such as tankers and ships for the carrying of the various types of merchandise. In that connection also, I should like to ask what now is the position with regard to the passenger service between this country and Britain. That is very important for our tourist trade and has been referred to here already on more than one occasion.

I am aware the Minister has had discussions with the authorities on the other side of the Channel and I would like to find out if he is satisfied now that all will be well with that passenger service, so that the complaints which have arisen in the past will not continue to operate as an impediment to the development of our tourist industry. When we discussed this question the last time, I referred to the advisability of taking steps to get some part in the ownership of the passenger shipping services. At present the whole thing is one-sided and it appears to me that the authorities across the water lay down whatever rules and regulations they like to suit themselves and ignore any complaints that we may make. Because of that undesirable one-sided position, I would like the Government, when it thinks the time is appropriate, to consider this very important matter.

This is not a controversial measure and it has been under consideration for a considerable length of time. In conclusion, I wish to say that the provisions in the measure are necessary and therefore they are welcome.

Mr. Douglas

In the Dáil, this measure was accepted, I think, as an agreed measure by Government and Opposition. Like Senator Kissane, I have no intention of speaking at length. I have found that, amongst some of the smaller shipowners, there is some concern in regard to the sections of this Bill which deal with ships which are registered in the Republic. I do not understand the Bill sufficiently to be quite certain as to what restrictions are placed on the disposal of ships, but I am told that if smaller shipowners are restricted in their market to the Republic, it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for them to dispose of the older ships in their fleet and get new replacements.

Section 18 deals with the obligation to register ships owned by Irish citizens and Irish bodies corporate and sub-section (3) would appear to make it possible for Irish nationals to have their ships registered outside this country, but, after they do so, they will not enjoy the protection they would be entitled to otherwise under the Act. On the other hand, Section 19 states that the Government may, by Order, declare a particular State to be a reciprocating State, if they are of opinion that it would be in the national interest to do so. The Bill does not appear to contain any clear definition of a reciprocating State, and I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us what States are in mind under that section. For instance, does it mean that any of the former members of the British Commonwealth to which he referred in his opening remarks would be considered at present as reciprocating States? Does it mean that an Irish owner could have a ship registered in the United Kingdom and still enjoy the full protection of this Bill?

It is important for the Minister to consider this problem of the replacement of the fleet, because it has been the problem which most of the smaller nations in Europe have had to face in recent years. They found in practice that, if there is great restriction on the transfer of the older units of the fleet, it becomes impossible to obtain up-to-date replacements.

There is one other section of the Bill which deals with the transfer of ships. Possibly when the Parliamentary Secretary is replying, he would make clear what conditions will be imposed on Irish citizens, or on non-Irish citizens who are mentioned in Section 19, if they join with Irish citizens, or with non-Irish citizens, in owning ships registered here or registered in other ports.

There is also the sale of ships. Would the Minister have the sole right to give permission or refuse it in the case of a ship being transferred outside the State? I think this Bill has been welcomed generally by the shipowners in this country as it is long overdue. We greatly needed an up-to-date Mercantile Marine Bill to deal with this State and I think both Houses welcome its introduction.

Like previous speakers, I welcome the Bill. I am very pleased that Irish shipping has made such progress in recent years as to warrant the introduction of this Bill to bring about a codification of our marine laws. While we are pleased with that progress, there are some aspects to which I would like to direct attention. I would like to know exactly what progress has been made by Irish Shipping Limited and what the future plans are in relation to strengthening the fleet. I would also like to know whether the existing policy is to be continued in the future. This is an important matter, particularly for areas other than the Port of Dublin. I understand that up to the present the ships owned and controlled by Irish Shipping are confined to the use of the Dublin port. That may be due to the facilities there for vessels of their tonnage or to other reasons. I would suggest—and I think I would have the feeling of the House with me —that the aim of an Irish shipping company should be to decentralise its activities so as to make use of the facilities available in other ports and give employment there, rather than confine all the activities to Dublin.

Senator Kissane mentioned the importance of Irish control of our passenger services. This is a very serious matter. This Parliament makes a very generous contribution to the development of our tourist industry. We have seen year after year a total disregard in catering for those tourists at the particular time of the year when it should be most important that all facilities be made available to them. I refer to the passenger service at Dún Laoghaire. Every year, despite the protests and representations by various Ministers for Industry and Commerce and the various promises made by the cross-Channel shipping companies, these things recur at the time when there is the greatest influx of visitors.

People are not going to put up with that kind of treatment when they can be catered for much better by going to the Continent. They will not travel to places where they are treated like cattle for export. In fact, there are more regulations for the shipping of cattle than there are for the people who come in through this particular service. The promises made and the representations made up to the present have been ineffective. The time has arrived, now that we are spending so much on tourist development, when this particular service to Britain should be owned and controlled by an Irish company, if for no other reason than the interest of the tourist industry.

In conclusion, I stress again the need to utilise other ports—Galway, Drogheda and so on. The decentralisation would be very useful in times of emergency in the future and if they are not used now in peacetime, they cannot come into operation immediately some emergency occurs. Apart from that, the distribution of goods would be less costly and employment would be given and maintained in those areas. That should be carefully considered by Irish Shipping, Limited.

There are some small points that occur to me and it might be proper to state them for the Minister's consideration. The designation of an Irish body corporate might be open to question. If it is a body corporate established under and subject to the law of the State and having a physical place of business in the State, it occurs to me that technically that definition might apply to a company which has complied with the provisions of the Companies Acts and established an office here and possibly uses that office as its principal place of business. I am drawing attention to this merely to ask the Minister to consider it, if he has not already done so.

In Section 11 it is provided that:—

"No flag distinctive of nationality shall be hoisted on an Irish ship other than the proper national colours."

I understand it is a courtesy rule of the sea that a ship leaving for a foreign port hoists on her foremast the flag of the country to which it is proceeding and flies its own flag on the stern mast. I am ignorant of such matters and I do not know whether that section could possibly interfere with that rule of courtesy.

A more important point is contained in Section 16 which defines the persons qualified to own registered ships. It includes an Irish citizen and an Irish body corporate as defined in the Act, but it does not apply to a person who might be resident here for a long time but who is not an Irish citizen. I quite understand that such a person would be covered possibly under the reciprocating section, but there might be a person who had been long resident here, say, for four or five years. Provision has been made for such matters in the Control of Manufactures Acts and similar Acts. I do not know whether the Minister may think it wise to cover such persons in this Bill. I take it that it is a desirable thing that, subject to proper safeguards, there should be as many ships as possible registered under the Act.

Section 26 contains provisions as to the marking of ships, which I think are the normal provisions that have always existed; but the marking of the Plimsoll line is not mentioned. I do not know whether that will be dealt with in the other Bill to which the Minister refers. This Bill seems to have been carefully drawn and it has the great merit of making the law of this country master in its own shipping business.

In conclusion, I think this House should pay a tribute to the foresight of the then Minister and his civil servants during the war, who by their enterprise and activity were able to establish an Irish shipping company in the midst of the war. It was an achievement for which this country should be very grateful to them.

This Bill has been described as an agreed measure, so there is no necessity for a protracted discussion. It codifies existing legislation. It is a happy state of affairs to find that the expansion of our own Irish merchant shipping has been largely responsible for the necessity to introduce this Bill. There is one question I have to ask—and perhaps if I had gone into the Bill more carefully, I would know the answer. Does the Minister consider that the position of Irish shipping, in the event of another war, would be not less favourable than it was during the last war, with the legislation as it was? In other words, does our own Mercantile Bill in any way affect the position of our shipping in a future world war?

There are just two points I should like to raise, in the spirit of the last two speakers, for the purpose of clarification rather than for any other reason. First, I rise very tentatively because, like Senator Cox, I can claim no knowledge of the language of the sea. He referred, I noticed, to the showing of the national colours. I notice that, in Sections 9 and 10 of the Bill, the phrase used is "to wear the proper national colours". I should like a reassurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that this is, in fact, the usual term used at sea— that a ship wears a flag rather than shows or displays it.

My other point is in relation to Section 3, which I confess I do not understand. It reads as follows:—

"This Act shall not apply to ships of the Naval Service of the Defence Forces which are wholly manned by personnel of that service."

I am not sure just what is meant by the last clause. Does it mean that this Act shall not apply to ships of the Naval Service of the Defence Forces when they are wholly manned by the personnel of that service or does it mean since they are wholly manned? In other words, if somebody happens to be part of the personnel, temporarily, of one of these ships and does not happen to be in that service, does he by reason of that fact automatically and suddenly come within the competence of this Act?

I suggest that there would be no ambiguity if the words after "which" in the third clause were omitted. As I say, I am not sure of the purpose of the third clause and I am not quite satisfied that a court of law will be clear as to the exact intention of the clause beginning "which are".

There are just three small points I should like to raise on this Bill. In the first place, I should like to support Senator Cox in relation to his query about not hoisting other flags. My impression is the same as his, namely, that ships usually, as a matter of courtesy, wear the flag of another country when they are entering a port in that country. It is the practice of the B. & I. ships entering the Port of Dublin to fly the Irish flag at the foremast. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will consider amending this clause, if it precludes that act of courtesy.

My second point concerns Section 32 which deals with ports of registry. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the House what is the principle of selection in regard to these ports of registry. The names are given in the Second Schedule, and I notice the omission of three ports which one would think would deserve this privilege, namely, Arklow, Dungarvan and Kinsale. The last mentioned port was once the greatest port in the South of Ireland and is still a good port. The Minister has powers to extend the list of ports of registry, but would it not be desirable to add such ports at this stage, if only as an honour to those good ports?

The third matter concerns Section 93, sub-section (4). I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary why this curious line of demarcation is stated—"the continent of Europe between the River Elbe and Brest". Is it simply for information? It does seem a rather curious line to choose.

May I add just one other small point? I think this Bill should not pass without a tribute to the work of the Irish shipping companies within the past few years in building up a fine fleet of Irish ships. Nothing, I think, adds more to the honour of our country abroad than that good looking ships, well manned, should come in under the Irish flag. Apart from the advantages of having a mercantile navy which would give employment to the more adventurous and more migratory citizens of our country, I think this matter of national prestige should be kept in mind. The Minister should see to it that ships wearing the Irish flag are worthy of that flag, because it would mean a good deal for the good name of the country. We should offer to the Irish Shipping Company—it is a company with which I have no direct influence—a tribute which I think is in the minds of many of us who live on the sea coast and who see those ships sailing past wearing the Irish flag.

I wish to refer principally to the question of the cross-Channel traffic already mentioned in the debate. We had a tradition in this country in regard to cross-Channel traffic until the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company went out of business. I believe that company was one of the most efficient companies and provided a cross-Channel service second to none. It was a Dublin-run company and then it passed into the hands of the old London North-Eastern Railway Company. To-day, we do not possess any cross-Channel passenger service between Britain and Ireland and it would be desirable for us to have such a service. If a service were run, I imagine there would be reciprocal services such as are run between France and Britain. They are competing services and they have one enormous advantage in that national prestige is kept on its mettle, so to speak. Neither the British nor the French want to permit either side to do any better than the other.

If we had a reciprocal service here, it would mean that the Irish and British would be put on their mettle, too, and the travelling public would be better served. Earlier this year, when the Minister for Industry and Commerce was speaking on the Tourist Bill, I mentioned, as did Senator Hawkins to-day, difficulties with regard to the Dún Laoghaire service. I spoke about the desirability of using the southern ports rather than using the bottle-neck through Dún Laoghaire. With the Minister's good wishes, I took up the matter with the chairman of C.I.E. and also with the chief officer of the western region in Britain. As a result, I have since had discussions with the British representative here. He tells me that the services to Rosslare, Waterford and Cork will be speeded up in each direction by 1½ hours from next summer.

During the war, we had only the one service and it became popular to pass through Dún Laoghaire, whereas there was an equally fine service, via the three southern ports of Rosslare, Waterford and Cork, but it was neglected. The people on the other side are now apparently aware of that disability and we are going to get a competing service in the South with Dublin from this out.

With regard to entering the cross-Channel service, you would meet great difficulties. One such difficulty, I imagine, would be the provision of boats during the time others are under repair. The British run such a large number of ships from Hull all around to the Clyde that they always have a reserve of ships available for any emergency. That is a difficulty, I believe, that we will experience here. If we were running only two ships, we would be put in the position of having one or two in reserve and that might not be good for us from an economic point of view until Irish shipping has developed to a far greater extent than it has.

I think it would not be right to let this opportunity pass without paying a tribute to the Minister and the officials of his Department for the wonderful work they did with regard to Irish shipping. I think the good work that has been started will be carried on and that our Irish ships will be able to carry goods and services for us at competitive prices. That is an all-important matter in our economy. Everybody will welcome this Bill. I think the Department has done a tremendous task in codifying a large body of mercantile laws. They must have expended a great deal of energy on carrying out such a job in a short measure such as this. I am sure that all engaged in shipping in the present and in the future will be deeply grateful to the Minister for the work he has done.

In my opinion, it is about time that we thought more seriously about this matter of shipping. I did not like to hear the remark passed by Senator Burke when he spoke about the proposition being uneconomic. We in Cork were anxious to get ships, but the answer we all received was that it was not an economic proposition. When the war came, we saw the situation we had to face without ships. Before the first world war, we had a very efficient fleet of ships doing cross-Channel trade and although we had people who had sufficient money, unfortunately, they had not the courage to purchase ships. Had they purchased the ships then, we would have a cross-Channel service of our own now.

As a matter of interest, the first ship to cross the Atlantic was built in Cork. Let us not worry about the difficulties we may have to face in the future in regard to having a cross-Channel service and let the problem of getting such a service not deter us from going ahead. I am anxious to know the number of ships we have under construction at the moment. I feel that we have not sufficient ships being built. When I consider the amount of employment a number of ships can give by way of servicing and so on, I like to estimate how many workers would be employed in the handling of them.

I remember the late Mr. Thomas Dowdall and his brother, James. They played their part in trying to provide an Irish merchant fleet. During the last war, we were short of coke. Some of our factories were on the point of being closed down. Two gentlemen went to Scotland and I happened to meet them on their way back. They told me that there were stocks of coke to be had, but that we had no ships.

It is a pity that we have not a ship of our own to deal with the cattle trade. I would also suggest that we should go in very much more for coasting vessels and I would like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what is being done in regard to the question of building tankers, especially in view of what may happen in the future.

I join with Senators Cox and Stanford in drawing the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to Section 11, the section dealing with the prohibition of hoisting colours other than national colours. I believe, in common with those Senators, that it is the custom of the sea, out of courtesy, to hoist on the foremast the colours of the nation into whose port a ship is about to enter. It is possible that this section would need to be slightly amended to cover such international conventions and courtesies.

Like Senator Douglas, I, too, would like some information from the Parliamentary Secretary on the question of the sale of Irish registered ships to prospective vendors who are outside Ireland. As Senator Douglas says, this is of prime importance in the case of smaller ships, including yachts. I seem to remember that at one period after the war, if one wanted to dispose of even a sailing yacht, it was necessary to get a special permit from the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the vessel had been registered in Ireland. I think, perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary could give the House some information in regard to what the position would be under this Bill.

In conclusion, I would like to support the remarks of Senator Hickey about the further expansion of our Irish owned fleet, whether owned by Irish Shipping or private enterprise. This is not the first time that I have referred to this matter in this House and advocated more ships and tankers.

I might also point out to the House that a very small nation, no larger than our own, Norway, has for many years lived well on the proceeds of her mercantile fleet. Before the first world war, the Norwegian mercantile fleet was second in size only to that of the United Kingdom. She lives well with this enormous mercantile fleet, not because of the goods that Norway carries—she is a comparatively poor country—but because her fleet is very often chartered. We are still in this country in the unhappy position that many of our Irish ships leave our Irish ports for ports on the other side of the world for the purpose of bringing back valuable cargoes to us, but, unfortunately, as we have not a two-way trade with these ports, our ships have to sail to the far side of the world empty or in ballast. I feel that if there was a lot more flexibility and a little more commercial blood in the board and management of Irish Shipping, that difficulty might be got over, and we should be able in the world to-day to pick up charter cargoes for our outward ships.

Senator Cox has referred to the definition of an Irish corporate body and says it may limit the number of ships which could be registered in the State. He was inclined to suggest that the definition should be amended in order to permit more ships to be registered in this State. I should like to know if this Bill also relates to the fishing fleet. At the moment, Scottish drifters have become registered in Dublin and are now fishing, ringing herring on the coast of Donegal, to the detriment of the inshore fishermen there. If the definition is widened, I suggest it will encourage further fishing vessels to come in and exploit the fishing beds along our coast.

I am not sure if this Bill affects this particular type of boat, but if it does, I ask the Minister to retain at least the definition set out in the Bill.

The Bill is an agreed measure, but there are several points to be cleared up. Senator Kissane asked about ships registered in Irish names. It is open to any shipowner to register an Irish name and the only requirement is that the same name be not already in use on another ship. He asked also about the cross-Channel services. Good progress has been made and I believe that, during the past year, there was not such a hold up as we had up to that time. There have been negotiations by the Minister during the past year to improve the services further during the coming season. We are all very anxious that proper services should be provided between Dún Laoghaire and Holyhead. The Minister has had several conferences and negotiations on that point. The Senator also inquired about Irish Shipping Limited acquiring further tonnage. The Government decided to direct Irish Shipping—during the past couple of months—to acquire two further tankers; and Irish Shipping have placed orders for them.

Senator Douglas asked about the transfer of ships. This is the same as in the 1947 Act. Provided a person cannot get sale in the home country for these ships, the Minister will not be unreasonable in withholding permission for sale in any other country.

Senator Hawkins asked about definitions of bodies corporate. This is a legal point. I will have inquiries made into it and I will send Senator Hawkins my reply. He also asked about the flying of the Irish flag. This section is the same as in the 1947 Act. It means that, apart from other flags, Irish ships must fly the Irish flag. It does not prohibit other flags.

Senator ffrench O'Carroll asked if this Bill affected the position of our shipping in time of war. It does not do so directly, but it does mean that the national status and rights will be clear beyond dispute.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington asked about Section 3. This Bill does not apply to the actual naval ships, but it does apply to ferry-boats and others which are owned by the Navy.

Senator Stanford inquired about increasing the number of ports in which Irish ships could be registered. Increasing the number of ports would mean the employment of more permanent full-time customs officers. We have at present Cork, Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, Skibbereen, Sligo, Tralee, Waterford, Westport and Wexford. I do not think it would be an easy matter to increase the number.

Senator Stanford raised a question on Section 93 about the Brest and the Elbe. Paragraph (a) there defines the home trade. The Brest and the Elbe are always included traditionally as home trade ports and vessels plying between the home trade limits are subject to less stringent regulations as to safety equipment and certificated personnel.

How many ships have we in construction at the moment?

About six.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 30th November.