Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 4 Mar 1992

Vol. 131 No. 12

Merchant Shipping Bill, 1991: Second Stage.

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

The main purpose of this Bill is to enhance maritime safety by updating existing legislation and introducing new safety measures for vessels. The Bill will bring the licensing of vessels carrying not more than 12 passengers for reward within the scope of the Merchant Shipping Acts for the first time. It is a major change in the provisions for safety. It will also update the level of penalties for offences under existing legislation for vessels carrying more than 12 passengers and enable me to make regulations governing the safety of fishing vessels and pleasure craft.

Senators will be interested in the background to the Bill. The Merchant Shipping Acts, which are administered by my Department, apply to vessels which carry more than 12 passengers to sea or on rivers, canals, lakes or estuaries. They are required to hold a valid passenger certificate and they are subject to annual surveys which are conducted by the marine surveyors of my Department. The Acts and the rules and regulations made thereunder lay down detailed requirements in respect of safety on board such vessels.

Vessels may be inspected at any time by marine surveyors of my Department. Sixty vessels now hold valid passenger certificates. Many of the certificates apply to vessel operation in smooth or partially smooth waters and are valid for the summer months only. Improved liaison with the Garda Síochána and the institution of proceedings against illegal operators have reduced reported cases of overloading. Publicity campaigns advising persons wishing to take trips on vessels to check that such vessels hold valid passenger certificates and comply with the requirements of those certificates have also served to reduce reported irregularities.

The major remaining difficulty is the low level of fines being imposed by the courts on the owners or masters of vessels operating illegally. The fines are not an adequate financial deterrent to the illegal operator and I propose in this Bill to raise these fines substantially.

Furthermore, I propose to introduce a new provision enabling me to make regulations providing for on-the-spot fines for certain offences relating to pleasure craft. The pleasure craft safety working group will advise me on codes of practice in relation to safety but I see a need for the additional power to provide for on-the-spot fines in certain circumstances. This I would provide for in a new section 27.

Vessels which carry 12 passengers or fewer are currently outside the scope of the Merchant Shipping Acts. These vessels may be licensed by local authorities under the Public Health Acts. Boatmen's licences may also be issued by local authorities under the same legislation. However, there are no statutory requirements laying down safety standards for these vessels and, therefore, there are no criteria by which local authorities can assess applications for licences. The token level of fees and fines under the Public Health Acts and the discretionary nature of the licensing powers have resulted in the legislation being less than effective, and moribund in the case of many local authorities. In this Bill, I propose to bring vessels carrying 12 passengers or fewer within the scope of the Merchant Shipping Acts.

In relation to the larger passenger ferries, a review of the safety aspects of ferry transport has been ongoing since 1987 when the then Minister established the National Ferry Safety Committee. This standing committee is chaired by my Department's chief surveyor and includes representatives from the ferry companies. The committee reviewed safety procedures and standards on board Irish-registered ferries. It considers any measures necessary to improve safety and makes recommendations, as appropriate, to the ferry operators and to myself. Non-Irish-registered ferries calling to Irish ports are subject to periodic inspections carried out in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control to which Ireland is a contracting party.

A recent Royal National Lifeboat Institution report indicates that the greatest number of accidents around the Irish coast last year were in the pleasure craft and commercial fishing categories, hence the need for improved safety precautions in these sectors. In the pleasure craft sector my attention has also been drawn to the hazards and the noise posed by jet-skis. I have received complaints that their operators are encroaching on waters used extensively by bathers and children in small craft and thus posing a threat to them and a nuisance to others. This Bill represents a consolidation and improvement of passenger safety legislation. It is long overdue and I am sure that Senators will welcome its contents.

The increasing use of our seas and coastal waters for boating, sailing and other leisure activities is an indication of the potential for development in this area. We need to develop facilities for pleasure craft, including marinas, if Ireland is to attract its fair share of sailing visitors from overseas and market itself as a centre for major ocean races. However, it saddens me to see the extent to which tragedies occur because of failure to take basic safety precautions. The unpredictability of Irish weather and the vast power of the sea itself make seafaring hazardous, despite advances in vessel design. My Department strive to create an awareness of the importance of safety on our waters. Information, marine notices, booklets and pamphlets on particular aspects of safety are regularly brought to the attention of those involved.

While I am extremely pleased with the enhanced public awareness generated by campaigns already undertaken, the updating of the law in this area is necessary if tragic loss of life is to be prevented. In this connection, the Bill will allow me to make regulations governing the safety of pleasure craft covering, for example, the carriage of life-saving, radio and navigation equipment. Consultants with the various interest groups in pleasure craft activity by way of a pleasure craft safety working group have already begun as to the type of control needed in this area.

The expansion of the Irish fishing industry in recent years has been spectacular. While commercial fishing can be a profitable activity it can also be a very hazardous occupation. My Department have been involved in preparing educational material relating to the safety and operation of fishing vessels. However, as in the case of pleasure craft, I believe that the law in this area needs to be enhanced to ensure as far as possible the protection of the crews of fishing vessels. This Bill will enable me to make regulations governing the safety of fishing vessels and their crews. I have by means of a fishing vessel safety working group begun a process of consultation with representatives of the various interest groups involved in the fishing industry. I will be guided by the views of how working group on the need for and content of the secondary legislation or other measures needed in this area.

The State's commitment to the rescue of persons in distress at sea has been considerably boosted in the past year. Following the Government's acceptance of most of the recommendations of the Doherty report on Air/Sea Rescue Services a new marine emergency service was established within my Department last May. The service — Slánú — The Irish Marine Emergency Service has assumed responsibility for the operational aspects of maritime safety, rescue, shipwreck and sea and coastal pollution. A director and chief of operations have been recruited and arrangements are currently in progress for the integration into the service of the coast radio stations at Valentia and Malin Head, the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Shannon and the cliff and coast rescue stations throughout the country. The marine pollution response team, to whom great credit is due for their handling of recent marine incidents where there was a threat of pollution, also comes under the aegis of Slánú.

In July 1991 an interim medium-range search and rescue helicopter commenced operations out of Shannon on a 24-hour basis. That helicopter was recently replaced by one specifically equipped to carry out rescues in conditions of very poor visibility. Since the service came into operation on 15 July 1991 80 rescue missions were carried out resulting in 57 lives being saved. Many of these missions have been undertaken in atrocious weather conditions around the south, south east and west coasts. With effect from last July, the Air Corps Dauphin helicopter which had been located at Shannon has been transferred to Finner Camp, County Donegal on a 24-hour response basis.

The Doherty report also recommended the setting up of a Maritime Safety Consultative Committee and working groups covering safety on fishing vessels, pleasure craft and other vessel types to come under the aegis of the committee. The main objective of the committee and its working groups is to keep me aware at all times of the concerns of the maritime community. The membership of the four safety working groups, that is, in addition to the National Ferry Safety Committee of which I spoke earlier, comprise maritime industry and interest group representatives.

The role of each working group is "to review safety procedures and standards on Irish vessels in its sector; to consider measures necessary to improve safety in these areas and to make recommendations to the Maritime Safety Consultative Committee; to consider legislative or other proposals, for example non-statutory codes of practice to improve standards or conditions in the sector; to consider safety matters referred to the Working Group by the Minister or his officials for observations; to consider complaints or proposals for improvement made by interest groups or other persons operating in the sector and where appropriate, to submit them to the Maritime Safety Consultative Committee; to submit an annual report to the Committee."

The fishing vessel and pleasure craft safety working groups are paying particular attention to the Bill before the House and will advise me, on an ongoing basis, through the Maritime Safety Consultative Committee of the measures to be regulated. This accounts for the Bill providing me with enabling powers to make regulations in relation to fishing vessels and pleasure craft. The preliminary meetings of the fishing vessel and pleasure craft safety working groups have already been held: those relating to public service vessels and merchant vessels will be held at an early date. This Bill provides me with the powers to make regulations and the committees will advise on the appropriate regulations.

I am very concerned at the dangers posed by submarine movements in the fishing grounds around our coast. My Department's chief surveyor at the most recent meeting of the International Maritime Organisation's General Assembly, proposed a resolution on the avoidance by submerged submarines of fishing vessels and their crews. The purpose of the Irish resolution, which was passed unanimously, is two-fold: first, to ensure that submarines navigating through areas where vessels are known to fish, use all available means for determining the presence of such vessels and their fishing gear, and second, to ensure that a submerged submarine, if information on the presence of a fishing vessel and its fishing gear is available, will avoid that fishing vessel and any fishing gear connected with it.

The International Maritime Organisation is asking its members to bring these recommendations to the attention of submarine commanders and to develop local arrangements to promote safety in areas used by submarines and fishing vessels. By raising this issue at the highest level in the International Maritime Organisation my intention is to focus the attention of the international maritime community on the problem and to stress the need for constant vigilance if a major tragedy is to be avoided.

I should now like to say a few words about the principal provisions of the Bill. Part I deals with the standard provisions of a Bill. Part II deals with vessels carrying more than 12 passengers and which are defined as "passengers ships". Section 6 provides that passenger ships shall be surveyed at least once each year. Section 7 provides that this survey shall be carried out by a duly appointed surveyor of ships and also by a radio surveyor if the ship is required to be provided with a radiotelegraph or radiotelephone installation who shall provide the owner of the vessel with a declaration of survey, if satisfied that it is in order to do so.

Section 8 provides that the Minister for the Marine, on receipt of the declaration of survey, shall issue a passenger ship's certificate to the owner, stating the limits, if any, beyond which the vessel shall not ply and the maximum number of passengers that the vessel shall carry. The certificate shall be subject to such conditions and restrictions as the Minister may impose. A certificate shall remain in force for a maximum period of one year. The Minister may refuse to grant a certificate where the owner has been previously convicted of a safety related offence.

Section 9 provides that the Minister for the Marine may revoke a certificate in cases where there has been an error in the declaration of survey, where false or misleading information has been given or where the condition of the vessel has changed since its survey. The Minister may revoke or suspend a certificate if its terms have not been fulfilled.

Section 10 requries the passenger certificate, or a copy thereof, to be displayed in a position in the vessel so that it is both visible and legible to all on board. Section 11 provides that a person shall not make a false or fraudulent declaration of survey or certificate nor alter such declaration or certificate. Section 12 provides that a vessel shall not operate as a passenger ship unless there is a certificate in force in relation to that vessel.

Section 13 provides that a vessel shall not operate as a passenger ship without insurance and that the owner shall provide a copy of the certificate of insurance to the Minister for the Marine. The certificate of insurance, or a copy thereof, shall also be clearly displayed on the vessel.

Part III of the Bill deals with vessels carrying not more than 12 passengers for reward, and defined as "passenger boats". Section 14 provides that a vessel shall not be used as a passenger boat unless there is a licence in force in relation to that vessel.

Section 15 provides that the Minister for the Marine, on the application of the owner of a vessel, shall grant a passenger boat licence to the owner if an authorised person has inspected the boat not more than two months prior to date of the application and has furnished a report to the Minister of the boat's suitability. The licence shall contain requirements as to the limits, if any, beyond which the vessel shall not ply and the maximum number of persons that the vessel is fit to carry. The licence shall be subject to such conditions and restrictions as the Minister may impose. The licence shall remain in force for a maximum of two years. The Minister may refuse to grant a licence where the owner has been previously convicted of a safety related offence.

Section 16 provides that the Minister for the Marine may revoke a licence in cases where there has been an error in the report of inspection of the vessel, where false or misleading information has been given, or where the condition of the vessel has changed since its inspection. The Minister may revoke or suspend a licence if its terms have not been met.

Section 17 provides that the master of a passenger boat must produce for inspection by an authorised officer his licence and/or proof of the boat's compliance with regulations, if any, with regard to insurance cover. This section also requires that the owner's name, licence serial number and maximum number of passengers licensed for carriage be painted on the outside of the vessel above the waterline.

Section 18 provides that the Minister for the Marine may make regulations to ensure the safety of passenger boats, their passengers and crews. The regulations may cover seaworthiness, construction and maintenance of vessel, life-saving, fire-fighting, radio and navigation equipment, insurance cover, crew competence and such other matters including the charging of fees as the Minister considers necessary or expedient. Different provisions may be made in the regulations for different classes of passenger boats. The section provides for stiff penalties for convictions for breaches of the regulations.

Part IV contains miscellaneous provisions, the most important of which I wish to mention. Section 19 provides that the Minister for the Marine may make regulations to ensure the safety of fishing vessels and their crews. The regulations may cover seaworthiness, construction and maintenance of vessel, life-saving, fire-fighting, radio and navigation equipment, periodic survey, crew competence and such other matters including the charging of fees as the Minister considers necessary or expedient. Different provisions may be made in the regulations for different classes of fishing vessels. There is provision in the section for substantial penalties for convictions for breach of these regulations.

Section 20 provides that the Minister for the Marine may make regulations to ensure the safety of pleasure craft and their occupants. The regulations may cover seaworthiness, construction and maintenance of vessel, life-saving, fire-fighting, radio and navigation equipment, periodic survey, and such other matters including the charging of fees as the Minister considers necessary or expedient. Different provisions may be made in the regulations for different classes of pleasure craft. There is provision in the section for substantial penalties for convictions for breach of these regulations. That section deals particularly with the safety of pleasure craft and of the people who occupy them.

Section 23 provides that where a master of, or a seaman employed in an Irish-registered vessel or on any vessel while it is in Irish territorial waters, engages in conduct which endangers his vessel or any other vessel, structure, equipment, or any person, he shall be guilty of an offence. Likewise, if his actions are proved to amount to neglect of duty due to being under the influence of alcohol or any drug, he shall be guilty of an offence.

Section 24 provides that the master of a vessel the subject of a certificate or licence may refuse to permit on board a person under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. The section also provides that it shall be an offence for a member of a vessel's crew to be on duty under the influence of aclohol or any other drug to such an extent that his ability to discharge his duties is imparied.

Section 25 provides that an authorised officer may board or stop a vessel, inspect and examine such vessel and documents or records thereon. A person who obstructs an authorised officer in the exercise of his functions shall be guilty of an offence.

Section 27 amends the Merchant Shipping Act, 1947, to provide for the recognition, by order of the Minister for the Marine, of maritime qualifications granted by foreign Governments, where the Minister is satisfied that these are adequate qualifications for service on Irish-registered vessels.

Section 29 provides that the owner of a vessel who applies to the Minister for the Marine for a licence or certificate shall furnish the Minister with such information as he may reasonably require for the purpose of his functions under the Bill, when enacted. A person who furnishes false or misleading information shall be guilty of an offence and the Minister may refuse to issue a certificate or grant a licence.

Section 30 provides for the payment of fees by the owners of vessels for survey, inspection and the issue of a certificate or grant of a licence.

Failure to meet the requirements of the Bill, when enacted, or of regulations made thereunder constitutes an offence. The Bill provides for a range of penalties for offences depending on their gravity. Penalties range from a fine not exceeding £200 on summary conviction for failure to produce a passenger boat licence to an authorised officer to a fine not exceeding £100,000 and/or up to two years' imprisonment for failure or refusal to comply with a requirement specified in a passenger certificate.

A variety of concerned organisations have been consulted in the preparation of this Bill. The National Safety Council see the Bill as complementing their efforts to promote water safety. Bord Fáilte in seeking to attract tourists place special emphasis on our relatively unpolluted waters and our water based leisure activities. For them safety is of paramount importance.

This Bill will provide a statutory basis for the safe operation of the different water based activities. It will enable recommendations along the lines made by the West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee in their report, e.g. the introduction of annual safety equipment surveys for all Irish-registered fishing vessels and the fitting of EPIRBs — Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons — in all commercial seagoing vessels and pleasure craft above a certain size, to be given statutory backing.

This Bill, by improving safety standards on passenger vessels and enabling me to introduce regulatory measures for other vessels, will go a long way towards preventing future tragedies in Irish waters. Through this Bill, we will ensure the safety of many lives from the point of view of fishing vessels, pleasure craft and major ferries. The Bill received wide support in Dáil Éireann and I trust that there will also be general agreement on its content in Seanad Éireann.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I believe he was already here for an Adjournment motion, but I welcome him today in his official capacity as Minister for the Marine and wish him luck with his new porfolio.

Like the Members of Dáil Éireann I welcome this Bill. It has the commendable objective of updating legislation and introducing further safety measures, particularly in the light of the current modernisation of fishing and pleasure vessels throughout the world. It is essential that vessels carrying less than 12 people be licensed. I was surprised that only 60 vessels in the category of passenger ships carried licences and only during the summer months. Does that period include the three summer months only, and what happens during the more extended tourist season we try to encourage, starting at St. Patrick's Day and going right into October? In the light of the proposed changes will the Minister introduce a summer certificate for pleasure boats whose season, we hope, will continue to extend itself?

During the last few years we have become increasingly aware of the potential of our waters, economically, in relation to fishing and even more so, particularly with the advent of moneys from Europe, in relation to the development of tourist and leisure facilities. As an island nation it is strange that for many generations we turned our backs to the sea. I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach is in a different category, coming from a maritime county but coming from an inland county the sea to me was an occasion for a one day visit if one was lucky as a child and during school time we relished the experience of the sea through books like An tOileánach, Fiche Bliain ag Fás or Peig. Apart from such experiences, the sea was a weird and wonderful thing to be appreciated on rare occasions, which surprises me because the sea permeates so many of our legends and so much of our poetry and drama; when one remembers Riders to the Sea and other sea based fictions, it is surprising we have not become more involved with the sea surrounding us. On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of past penitential associations with fish then and on Good Friday.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara have spent a considerable amount of money promoting the eating of fish in recent years. I am glad that we now realise how valuable the sea can be, economically, for commercial fishing and leisure pursuits. Historically, towns like Clonmel, for instance, which were built on waterways neglected their river's potential until recently when tourism and recreation possibilities were identified there. In Limerick it is only in the last few years with the designated area extending seawards rather than away from it that we have come to realise the potential of our estuary. It is timely that the safety of pleasure craft carrying fewer than 12 passengers should be looked at; their tourist potential is only now being realised. During the past few years information leaflets, brochures, etc, warning us of the dangers of the sea have been made available and liaison with the Garda has improved.

The Minister mentioned increased reporting of overloading. I am mindful of what can happen in a place like Doolin, County Clare where there is a demand from tourists, mainly, to get to Inis Oirr, Inis Meáin and Inis Mór. Some days there is no hope of taking out a boat. Sometimes when demand is great for a trip to the Aran Islands one does not consider whether there are 12 or more on board; one gets on and hopes for the best. I am glad that appropriate regulations now exist and increased vigilance should make people aware of the numbers permitted in certain types of crafts and the requirement for certificates.

When the Channel Tunnel opens we will be the only true island nation in the EC and the desire to avoid overcrowded, over-exploited tourist areas in Germany, Spain, Portugal and Greece will be our opportunity to exploit the isolation of islands off our coast.

I am glad the Minister has improved the Bill by the addition of another section and I will be interested to hear what section 27 provides in relation to on-the-spot fines. I am a little sceptical about the implementation of such fines thinking of the failure of on-the-spot litter fines. Coming from a city like Limerick, I have yet to meet anyone who has been fined for littering. I hope the same negligent approach will not apply to on-the-spot fines for overcrowded pleasure boats.

As a member of a local authority I am aware of the lack of statutory requirements laying down safety standards for the issue of boatmen's licences by local authorities. It seems extraordinary that local authorities have no criteria for assessing applications and I am glad that matter is being attended to. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution say that the greatest number of accidents, not surprisingly, occur in the areas of pleasure and commercial boating. I am glad of the Minister's intervention in relation to jet skis which are becoming extremely popular and pose a danger to bathers in shallow waters.

If we are serious about the development of tourism here we must examine the case of private boat operators, and people who own sailing boats. Surveillance to ensure the safety of individual operators will be important particularly regarding the development of marinas. A small scale marina has been proposed by Glin, County Limerick and a larger marina is creating a tremendous amount of publicity at Kilrush. We are coming to this Bill at a time of increased emphasis on the tourist industry.

Reading Peig and An tOileánach we recall the tragedies that beset our fishermen who depend for their livelihood on the sea. They must weigh up the pros and cons whether they should go to sea on a particularly dangerous day. I know modern weather forecasting equipment is available to aid them but people will take chances and in this country, a day can change rapidly from quiet, peaceful morning to a dangerous evening with hazardous weather. There is a distance of some 2,000 miles between ourselves and our nearest neighbour, the east coast of North America. As we develop our fishing and tourist industry we must be vigilant in relation to the acts of God which will invariably happen. Monitoring equipment, a modern communications network and high-tech equipment are essential for all craft to ensure they are not placed at the mercy of the waves.

In relation to the emergency service, the Doherty report and reports of various committees such as the Marine Safety Consultative Committee, recommend ongoing monitoring of the situation. I welcome these reports and the fact that committees are liasing with other interest groups to ensure the maximum safety for fishermen.

Submarines have been discussed at length in other debates. I am glad that in the International Maritime Organisation the Minister has a mechanism for consultation to ensure that submarines avoid fishing vessels and pleasure craft. The former penalties, as the Minister said, were not a deterrent because they were so small and I am glad they have been increased. People will take chances if the fines are insignificant. The new fine of £200 is to be welcomed together with the maximum fine of £50,000 and two years' imprisonment for refusing to comply with the regulations.

Canals were referred to in the Dáil debate and the Ballinamore — Ballyconnell Canal and the tourism potential of the Slieve Russell Hotel in that area were also mentioned. Coming from Limerick I am aware of the development potential of inland waterways; Lough Derg is being increasingly used by people particularly Germans and Italians who have been going there for many years and now by Irish people for a holiday at home. I hope that pleasure crafts that operate off-season as well as in season will be monitored.

I have reservations about the implementation and enforcement of this legislation; in this country every Bill contains a rider about availability of resources. Will there be sufficient man or woman power employed to carry out inspections? This is a model Bill. It has received wide acclaim in the other House and will also be welcomed by Senators. It will be a shame if resources to ensure enforcement of the provisions are not put in place.

A section of the Bill provides, that a master or seaman employed in an Irish registered vessel or in any vessel in Irish territorial waters who engages in conduct endangers his vessel or any other vessel shall be guilty of an offence. What happens the crew in this case? The master is responsible obviously for his own conduct if it is in relation to alcohol or drug abuse. If a seaman in his employment offends, is the master responsible or is the seaman directly responsible to the Minister? Does the master have responsibility for his crew? I presume he does but I wonder about that instance which is not adequately spelled out.

Basically I welcome this important Bill. I will not go through the various sections, which are self-explanatory, and line by line, section by section with matters such as licence and licence display, the revoking of a licence and associated penalties. The Bill deals also with radiotelephone installation and other equipment. Regulations cover seaworthiness and the construction and maintenance of vessels. In this country, few people can afford to acquire a new fishing vessel; I do not know the average age of our fishing vessels. Pleasure craft are possibly, more modern. The construction and maintenance of vessels is going to be a big issue. Life saving equipment, fire fighting equipment, radio navigation equipment, insurance cover and crew confidence are important matters and the regulations should cover them.

I am pleased with the penalties for convictions. We need to approach maritime safety both from an economic viewpoint and with consideration for the livelihood of fishermen who have done so much to develop the fishing industry and it is only now that the fishing and tourist industries are realising their potential within an expanded EC.

There is a reference towards the end of the Bill to Bord Fáilte's special emphasis on our relatively unpolluted waters and water based leisure activities. Safety must be paramount. I would be interested in knowing what research the Department have done into leisure resource management in other EC countries; the Dutch have so little land space that most of their leisure activities take place on canals and inland waters and I am sure we could learn a lot from them. Perhaps the Irish are a little ambivalent about safety precautions. This is true especially of road safety. A tremendous emphasis is now being placed on the necessity for road worthy vehicles and regular tyre checks. We must look at safety precautions at sea also; the sea will claim its victims, regardless; we can never understimate it. Poets have reminded us repeatedly about the dangers and power of the sea. It is only when one stands on the seashore that one realises how vulnerable, fragile and delicate is the human species compared to the power of the sea.

I compliment the Minister on this extremely good Bill. Our party are pleased with the conditions outlined in it and we hope the resources and moneys necessary to ensure its implementation, will be provided.

I welcome the new Minister for the Marine, Deputy Woods. I am glad he has been placed in charge of marine services given his experience in Government and his commitment and dedication as a Minister. I am also pleased that this lieutenant, the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine is a Donegal man, my colleague and friend, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher. The Minister and the Minister of State have the capacity and ability necessary to accomplish much in that Department.

I join with other speakers in the Seanad today in welcoming this Bill, which is of major significance and importance. Together with the Sea Pollution Bill recently introduced by the Government, this Bill is necessary to control and prevent the continued loss of life at sea. Irish people whether living inland or on the coast would be appalled to know the number of drownings and maritime tragedies that have taken place recently. As I read the Bill and the Minister's speech I thought of the categories of people that tend to lose their life and the types of boat in question.

Large numbers of people lose their lives when they fall out of two man crafts, small craft used to examine lobster pots or to go fishing in. People may misjudge the weather, or be badly equippped, an engine may break down or 101 different things go wrong. This Bill attempts to set down new standards for types of boat, condition of boats, requirements for crew etc., is long overdue.

I have been on the pier at islands, at Burtonport, Killibegs and at many other small ports around the country where I observed holidaymakers using boats. Sometimes I questioned the condition of the boat and other times the number of people permitted in a boat. In a holiday atmosphere it would not be unusual to take 40 or 50 people on a small fishing boat, a half decker as we know them. I have felt insecure and unsafe travelling on one of those boats between Aranmore Island and Donegal, especially in rough water.

Many good intentions are spelt out in the Bill. I hope the Minister will succeed in the drafting and implementation of this legislation. A garda can stop a car tomorrow and enter in a notebook that the tyres are bald, the brakes faulty and then impound the car. A boat may be in bad condition but it is hard to police the condition of that boat. While the legislation now states that a boat must be inspected two months prior to the issue of the licence I question if that is sufficient because a boat may sustain damage by hitting the pier too hard or against rocks during the holiday season and the owner may decide to continue to carry passengers. I realise that it is a major undertaking to say that we will police the provisions of this Bill closely. The Minister and his Department will have to rely to a great extent on the integrity of owners and operators.

The proposal to erect notices on the boat is good and I strongly support that provision. Conditions for licensing of boats and information as to whether an insurance certificate is in order should be displayed on the boat as in the case of a motor car. A boat should have a number plate; we should insist on the same level of control of boats. We must convince boat operators and passengers of the importance of meeting the necessary safety standards.

I have known people who have spent their lifetime at sea and who would not travel on a small passenger boat without making sure it had life jackets. I would strongly advocate that every boat licensed to carry passengers must have a life jacket for every passenger, and that life jacket must be inspected and be in good condition. I strongly urge the Minister to add such a provision to the Bill. While that would be an added expense on those operating passenger or pleasure craft, it is of vital importance. Families with children on holidays enjoy boating, but somethimes they do not fully realise the dangers. I have been on boats when the weather turned bad and some of the passengers have been sick. They had not calculated the danger at sea. The Minister would need co-operation from people who operate small boats, as our coasts can be very treacherous because conditions change so quickly.

I welcome the new controls on fishing boats. A fishing boat can be anything from a huge craft to a 30 foot boat. Many of them operate without the necessary safety equipment. This Bill will encourage boat owners to accept that they have a responsibility in this area.

Those of us who have the opportunity and pleasure of living near the coast know that many of the boats in operation at present are old, and were built without detailed specifications. They may be clinker-built boats, built by tradesmen who did a first class job. When this legislation comes into operation, the Minister will have the responsibility to ensure that all boats, including those which ferry passengers to and from our islands and around our coast, meet a certain standard. This is a major undertaking. He will also have the major task of immediately asking all skippers and boatowners to cooperate and live within the new rules and regulations in the Bill.

I welcome the section which deals with the new life-saving equipment. I also welcome the fact that the Dauphin helicopter will be located at Finner Camp; there was a major campaign for such a facility for some time. It has now been recognized that the terrain and the Donegal coastline are treacherous and quite a number of people have been lost at sea over the years. Everyone in the west of Ireland recognises that the Government have done a first class job providing this service. I compliment the committee who made the decision to locate that equipment at Finner Camp. We all feel a little more comfortable now that the provision has been made.

I want to compliment the Minister and wish him success. He will have his hands full when the necessary and long overdue legislation is passed. I am glad it is getting a good reception from all sides of the House.

I welcome the Bill on my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party. I am sure most Senators will feel the same way about it. Although there may be criticism of some sections, its general intent and purpose will be welcomed. When the Bill is passed the most important thing is that the new procedures be carried out by ships' crews. Given the encouragement the Bill provides, I have no doubt they will go about their business very conscientiously because, in the final analysis, the officers and crew fully understand the risks involved. They know what is in the Bill and they will be aware of the safety standards and the criteria that must be followed on passenger and other vessels. The Bill will facilitate water-based tourist activities. I trust that the inland waterways, including the canals, will take advantage of this measure.

The annual marine survey of vessels is most welcome. I would like to mention the gear ships carry, whether merchant ships or seagoing ships. Under the old system an annual report was made in respect of all the gear, even that used only for unloading. I have represented people who loaded boats — I, too, was involved in this work — and I have heard about many accidents. When we found out how an accident occurred — such as a jib collapsing — it usually emerged that the survey findings were falsified or misrepresented in some way. For that reason I am very pleased that the marine surveys put great emphasis on safety. While what I am saying may not be of direct relevance to this debate, nevertheless it is something to bear in mind.

Under this Bill, the annual safety equipment surveys, which are of paramount importance, will also be compulsory. Credit must go to the Minister and his Department for their excellent publicity campaign. This is a very serious matter and more publicity is needed. I am glad the Minister appreciated that point. In order to create a real awareness in the public mind, one has to publicise this legislation, its values and effects. Because of the dangers of the unpredictable seas around our coast, constant review is essential. This provision is also welcome. I am pleased the Bill places so much emphasis on safety.

I also welcome the licensing of vessels carrying not more than 12 persons. We have all heard tragic stories of overloading or overcrowding, particularly where users of ferries and other beach craft are under the influence of drink. This is very serious. Senator McGowan made some reference to it when he said people do not understand the gravity of the situations and, consequently, accidents happen or are caused. I am very pleased about the efforts to deal with overcrowding.

I am concerned that, according to a survey published in The Sunday Tribune, up-to-date lifesaving equipment is not our strong point and in this respect we fall behind France and England, our competitors. I trust the Bill will lead to mandatory provisions on all passenger ferries to provide escape chutes similar to those on aircraft.

I have another slight criticism of the Bill. Senator McGowan mentioned the problem. There is nothing to stop anyone with the means to do so from purchasing a cabin cruiser and using it, without restraint, without any registration and even without competence. The waters of the Shannon can be very dangerous and somebody who is not competent to negotiate those waters can still take out a boat. I do not say there are no restraints but they should be more severe. Also, people who handle boats incompetently may go into areas where people are swimming or water skiing, where they are liable to cause problems, do damage and maybe even kill people. Yachts and other privately owned crafts can be a danger if handled by incompetent people. Some criteria must be laid down for handling craft and operators must be responsible to some authority. The Minister may have considered this, but perhaps he would have another look at it.

We are delighted with the intent and purpose of the Bill as regard safety; we would wish to make the provisions on safety even more effective. I enjoy watching people who go out in cabin cruisers, yachts or other craft. I love the whole scene, but if private owners are given privileges they must have obligations as well. For example, if they run into difficulties by straying too far, the search and rescue people have to go out and look for them and put their own lives at risk. The owners are under an obligation to those services and some further pressure can be put on them in this respect.

On the question of safety measures for smaller commercial fishing crafts, with the exceptions of a few basic rules it seems the only rules laid down are those governing the use of life belts. I am talking about craft less than 40 ft. There are over 2,000 such crafts in operation and it is important to consider the safety aspect of that class of vessel. The question of regulations governing launches, speed boats, motor cruisers and yachts does not seem to have been dealt with adequately. There are, as far as I know, no competency certificates issued for boat owners, unlike the position on the Continent.

We all have great admiration for the tenacity and endurance of those people who have to go out in very adverse weather conditions in order to harvest the seas. That is why I wish to stress safety in all its aspects. The provision in the Bill for the safety of fishing vessels and their crews is of tremendous importance. The Minister has gone a long way with that but I would like a little more emphasis to be given to safety. The Minister, in his speech, mentioned developments in that area.

We are heavily dependent on sea transport to ferry people and goods to and from the country. The car ferries carry large numbers of people. There is great potential for tragedy on the Irish seas, which is very worrying. In a report in a French consumer magazine Irish Ferries were rated at the bottom of the list of 33 international ferry companies in relation to safety and to the evacuation of passengers. That is a very worrying situation. The Minister's predecessor got notice of this and referred it to some other authority. I am delighted that point has been noticed and that something will be done about it.

I appreciate the Bill and the efforts that have been put into it. I would just say that it is nice to know the Minister for the Marine may revoke a certificate in cases where there has been an error in the declaration of the survey. I am very pleased with the Bill.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach seo. Tá súil agam, mar is gnáth dó, go ndéanfaidh sé an job céanna san phost seo is a dhein sé i ngach post a bhí aige sa Rialtas le cúpla bliain anuas.

I welcome the new Minister for the Marine to the House, and congratulate him on his promotion to that Department. I have a particular interest in the Department and I am delighted Deputy Woods is the Minister for the Marine. I assure him of all the support we can possibly give him in that onerous task.

I welcome the Bill. It is worthwhile and introduces new legislative measures and brings in stricter controls. We need these regulations and stricter controls. This is also an enabling Bill. The Minister, the Department and the bodies which will be working closely with him, will ensure that, at all times, there are proper regulations and safety in force. From time to time, as the need arises, different regulations can be added to the Bill.

With reference to passenger ferry boats, we are extremely lucky and I hope that continues. Thankfully we have had none of the major disasters we read about in other countries where ferry passenger boats collide and, because they are overloaded, there is a great loss of life. We must have laws and regulations and we must enforce them. It is most important that we make sure they are properly enforced. If I were to find any fault with this Bill — and, indeed, other Bills going through the House — it is that even on summary conviction the fines are too small. The Bill provides for fines as low as £200 for major irregularities or actions. I would recommend that the fines be increased.

At certain times of the year people approach owners of fishing boats that do not normally ferry passengers and have no licence to do so, to take them out to sea. For example, on Sundays in summer in Kerry there are angling competitions for which these boats are used. I would hate to see their use being restricted. The owners' normal occupation is fishing — maybe lobster pot fishing — but they get good insurance cover for their Sunday trips. Insurance companies are only too willing to extend cover on the weekends for fishing boats owners who provide this great service for anglers. Could the Minister or his officials ensure that these boat owners would not be restricted from providing this service on the weekends provided they have the necessary safety equipment on board and proper insurance cover.

I welcome the fact that there will be on-the-spot fines. There are grave breaches of the law from time to time and the only way to overcome that is to confront the skipper or whoever has broken the law and impose an on-the-spot fine. Who will make decisions relating to on-the-spot fines? Will it be the person referred to in the Bill as "an authorised person"? That would mean a harbourmaster within the confines of a harbour under his jurisdiction, a naval officer in full uniform, a Garda in full uniform or any person authorised by the Minister.

Under section 53 of the 1946 Harbour Act, will harbour authorities still have power to issue licences to boats plying for hire within their jurisdiction? I am the chairman of the Harbour Commissioners in Dingle and we discussed this issue. In a small harbour like Dingle, local knowledge is very important. We would be of the opinion that, if the Minister decided to grant licences to everybody who applied for them in our harbour, as a harbour commission, we would probably disagree. I am referring to plying for hire, for instance, for trips to see the dolphin. In the interest of safety we would like to see a limit to the number of licences being granted.

Most of the licences in Dingle are granted by Kerry County Council, and I must pay a special tribute to them and to the officers in charge. They did not grant the licences to everybody who applied but got their surveyor to survey the boats and make sure they all had the proper safety equipment on board. They are probably one of the few county councils to have done that. We sent a recommendation to Kerry County Council that, if possible, they should not issue more than 12 licences to ply for hire to take people out to see the dolphin in Dingle. We thought it would be unsafe to issue more licences.

I would like to know if, in future, the harbour commissioners will have the same power to recommend that the Minister and his Department limit the number of licences to be granted in a particular area. If a person is granted a licence to operate from a particular harbour, will that licence define exactly where he is to operate? For example, can a person who is granted a licence to operate out of Caherciveen operate out of Dingle, or can somebody who is granted a licence to operate from Kinsale operate from Bantry? Each harbour authority may apply their own restrictions. Will the harbour commissioners have the same powers they had under the Harbours Act, 1946, and will there be consultation with harbour commissioners?

Ireland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe but we we were never a seagoing nation. Boats and ships from foreign nations operate around our coast, but we do not have the same love for the sea. However, that is changing. Over the past five or six years there has been an increase in the number of yachts sailing around our coast. Bord Fáilte believe that if we promote our coastline we will attract many yachts to our shores.

The Senator is entering dangerous territory.

I am not, I know all about it. The proposed marina for Dingle is welcome. I would like to see more marinas. We cannot promote yachting holidays if we do not have well developed facilities like marinas, accommodation, showers, etc. I hope both sides will come together and reach agreement about the marina in Dingle.

Section 17 states that an authorised officer may request the master of a passenger boat to produce the licence in respect of the boat or a copy thereof. The Bill defines a boat as a vessel carrying up to 12 people and a ship as a vessel carrying 12 or more people. Has the authorised officer any powers in relation to the passenger ship? The Bill states that the "officer may request the master of a passenger boat" but it does not deal with a passenger ship.

How can we define who is the skipper or master of a boat or yacht? We have no way of positively identifying him. If one goes on board a boat and asks for the skipper anyone on board could say he is the skipper. There should be some means by which the skipper can be identified, and this should apply to both hired yachts and those that are privately owned. In regard to licensed boats, the skipper's name should be on the licence.

Severe penalties should be imposed on skippers and boat owners who overload their boats. If one has a licence to carry 12 people, one is bound to have life jackets and safety facilities for those 12 people. However, if the boat is overloaded, there will not be the necessary safety equipment to cater for these extra people.

I welcome the fact that all pleasure craft are covered in this Bill because for too long pleasure craft have not been included. They should be registered in the same way as any other sea craft. Fishermen respect the sea, but a person who decides to go sailing on a nice day may not realise that when they leave the harbour they may be in very rough seas. Some years ago approximately £750,000 was wasted over two days searching for two people who were so careless that they did not even say where they were going or what time they would be back; they did not even have a radio on board. Thankfully, they were found. What would happen if the Corvette, helicopters and lifeboats were out searching for those two careless people and there was a major accident somewhere else? All around the coast in the summer careless people do not think before they go to sea. I am glad pleasure craft have been covered in this legislation.

The Minister said he would be looking at jet-skis. They are very dangerous especially in restricted areas. Fun-loving people use them and it is great sport, but in a confined harbour — when I say a confined harbour I mean anything within one square mile — they zigzag all over the place, ignore channels for approaching fishing vessels and so on. They too should be included in the Bill.

What exactly would the Senator do?

I would be very strict because I have seen the way they operate.

The way Independent Senators do.

Senator O'Toole and I grew up together. He has always had a friendly go at me, in spite of the fact that he says he is very proud of me and that we both come from the same place. Of course, I must reciptocate and say I am very proud of him too.

This is a mutual admiration society.

This legislation and everthing the Minister is doing is welcome. However, there are not enough surveyors in the Department. People have been waiting for as long as six months to have their boats surveyed. That is unfair because they could miss the summer season waiting for their boat to be surveyed. While the surveyors are excellent, extra staff will be needed when this Bill is enacted to ensure that boats are surveyed quickly and that nobody breaks the law. Safety is the essence of this Bill.

While on safety, I wish to compliment the rescue services. I have been at sea for most of my life — Senator O'Toole would probably say that I am still at sea. On two occasions, I had reason to look for help from the lifeboat services. I asked them to stand by until I could get out of my difficulties, which I did. There is a new rescue centre at Shannon and as the Minister said 87 rescue missions, resulting in 57 lives being saved, were carried out in a very short time. That is remarkable. Most of the time when these people are on rescue missions the rest of us are in our beds. Anyone who has been at sea on a dark night will know how green and cold it can be; there are huge waves, and it is difficult to know where you are. People who go on rescue missions in those conditions must be commended. We must thank all who take part in rescue missions, including the helicopter crew based at Finner Camp.

Of course, there are more than helicopters involved in the rescue services. The lifeboat crews must also be commended. It is unfortunate that most of our lighthouse have gone automatic because lighthouse keepers were great watchdogs for anybody in trouble around our coast. Those who run the radio services and local voluntary groups do a great job. All these people deserve our thanks.

Finally, why are boats, unlike ships, not required to display insurance discs? Most licences granted by the Department of the Marine in respect of boats carrying over 12 passengers are restricted to the summer months. In the Dingle area boats that have a licence to carry 40 or 50 passengers may only operate from May until the end of August. That system is working well at the moment because not alone do those people have a licence from the Department of the Marine to carry 40 or 50 people during the summer months, but they also have a licence issued by Kerry County Council, to carry not more than 12 people during the winter months.

I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him every success in his Department. I also commend the Bill to the House.

Go raibh maith agat as ucht an seans a bheith agam cúpla focal a rá ar an mBille seo. Gan dabht, no one can take from the previous speaker's extraordinary knowledge of the sea and fishing. Senator Fitzgerald has a long record in that area. We have a great interest in the sea having been born and raised in the same parish. I am sure he will agree that there is nothing as sad as the tragedy of a boat lost at sea or unaccounted for in a sudden storm. People wait for the rescue services, they tune onto crackling radios to hear if contact has been made. I welcome any moves to improve safety standards. We have been lucky that there has not been a major sea disaster, although there are tragic drownings here every year, particularly during the summer months.

I have raised a number of issues in regard to pleasure craft on many occasions. I am appalled at the lack of safety measures in places like Inishbofin, seaworthy vessels travel from the quay to the island, but if the tide is out when they reach the island it is not possible to moor at the pier to enable people to disembark. This happened regularly before the new jetty was built but even now, I understand they still face that difficulty during very low tides. I saw 12 people being transferred from a boat which brought the passengers from the quay to a punt which should not carry more than four people. People, especially from city areas, are inclined to think that when one is near the harbour or shore one is safe. Those who live beside the sea know, that the depth of the water is the least important matter.

This is very welcome legislation. Senator Fitzgerald said the Minister referred to the Dingle marina in his speech but I do not see any reference to it. Senator Fitzgerald and I are in agreement on about 90 per cent of the developments in Dingle Harbour. First, the approval of construction for a second marina will lead to an overcrowded harbour and, second, it is totally unnecessary. It will threaten the viability of the first marina and reduce tourism in the town. The fact that it is being opposed by the majority of the people of the town should be taken into consideration by the Minister. I appeal to him to ensure that there is no development in that area.

That is looking at it from an objective point of view, but to be subjective, if the Office of Public Works decided to give 35 acres of the Phoenix Park to developers, the people of Dublin would be outraged. For those of us who live beside the sea, giving away 27 or 30 acres of foreshore has the same effect. It is unsustainable, unacceptable and unforgivable. It will mean giving away part of our heritage, something we have no right to do. I could not be more vehement on this issue. This is perhaps, outside the scope of the Bill but I would like to put it on the record.

I am pleased that pleasure boats have been dealt with in this legislation. There have probably been more drownings and tragedies involving pleasure boats than any other vessel. I can hardly recall a winter when I was growing up when a French trawler or some other vessel did not get into trouble around the cliffs of west Kerry. Professional seamen are very concerned about their safety. They no longer dwell on the piseóga of sea travel. There have been drownings because of a lack of education in safety standards.

Over the centuries many Blasket Islanders have been drowned because they believed that if a person's hat turned in a certain direction when they fall into the water they were fated to drown and no effort was made to save him. Fishermen believed they should not learn to swim because that skill was a challenge to the Lord and he would decide when a person's time was up. I know of fishermen who, when they had seen a red-haired woman or a furry animal particularly a fox refused to go fishing and that belief was held not so long ago.

People involved in any occupation which has an in-built risk to life are full of piseóga which are handed down from generation to generation. For that reason, a pro-active health and safety provision should be included in the legislation. The importance of safety at sea should be instilled in people's minds at every opportunity, perhaps through sporting clubs. A small investment at that level would make people more aware of the risks they face at sea. On a nice calm day people often take out their boat but do not realise that once they go outside the harbour there could be a 12 or 16 foot swirl and that they could lose control. This happens regularly. Knowledge of a harbour and its layout is very important.

Section 23 covers conduct endangering vessels, structures or individuals. Does this Bill allow action to be taken against people who allow a wreck to sink in a fishing channel? I am not talking about a recent case; I am talking about fishing boats or pleasure craft which sink or are dumped near fishing channels and which can cause great difficulty. Section 19 (2) (a) states that the Minister may require fishing vessels or specified classes of fishing vessels to comply with specified standards of seaworthiness, including stability. On the west Kerry area tá na naomhóga ansin ag iascaireacht go mór mhór in aice le Dún Chaoin, sna Blascaoidí, agus i gCiarraí Thiar agus i gConamara tá an currach go forleathan. Is deacair na focail "stability" agus "curracha" and "naomhóga" a chur san abairt chéanna ach they are the traditional methods and for the people who use them, they are the safest way to pot lobsters and get close to rocks.

I would not wish any regulations to deter the use of naomhóga or currachs which are canoes. I am sure the Minister has given this some consideration and I would like his reassurance. In general the move to involve pleasure craft is welcome.

I compliment the public servants who drafted this legislation and those who work quietly in the background. This is very necessary legislation. I say to those people who have worked on drafting it that they can be satisfied that lives will be saved. There is no doubt that implementation of this legislation will save lives, it will reduce hardship on many families and it will also bring us forward into Europe. I ask the Minister to develop this point in his response.

There is a general belief in Ireland that we are always behind Europe in terms of regulations and so on. My experience has been to the contrary. Safety regulations in holiday areas on the Continent are abysmal. The way people can drive around by the tops of castles in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, an action that would not be allowed in this country. It is the same with the kind of boats they use in many cases. I ask the Minister to ensure that European regulations are equally as strict as ours and, more importantly, that they are enforced.

In a peripheral but related area it is my belief that market farming and vegetable farming here has been decimated by the fact that our farmers are the only farmers in Europe who comply with proper sorting, grading and quality regulations. I have walked into vegetable shops in France, in particular in the Provence area which is noted for its vegetables, and you see beautiful green peppers, cucumbers and mushrooms. I guarantee you that they would not get in the door of the Dublin market, they would not be put on the shelves in a Dublin supermarket.

As far as I know this is the Minister's first visit to this House in his new Ministry. I certainly hope every visit he makes to us is as progressive and as positive as this. He will be thanked for this legislation and I welcome it very much.

I had a number of other points to make on sections of the Bill but I recognise that time is running out and there are four or five others who wish to speak. I look forward to hearing the Minister's closing speech and to implementation of this Bill.

I would like to welcome the Minister to this House and also to support this Bill. I intend to be quite brief on this, but there are a number of matters I would like to debate.

First, it is vitaly important that we as an island off the west coast of Europe — and in a short time we will be the only island in the EC when the Channel Tunnel is opened — should at all times try to ensure that merchant shipping can be made safer and that stricter regulations apply. As previous speakers have mentioned, the south-west coast, where I come from, is near some of the busiest shipping lanes. I welcome the decision to increase the penalties in relation to larger vessels carrying 12 or more passengers and also to bring in further and stricter regulations.

The Department of the Marine — and I give an example which is I think appropriate — should be complimented on their action about two years ago when the Tribulus, a large oil tanker owned by Shell, was detained in Bantry Bay by Department officials under existing legislation and would not be let sail until such time as major repairs were carried out to it. This is the kind of operation for which we must provide regulations. Another example is the Kowloon Bridge, which, regrettably, sank off our coastline and caused great concern, I would like to cite by way of example also the regrettable situation, probably the single biggest maritime tragedy in recent years, when the Betelgeuse blew up off Widdy Island. That was in 1979, some 13 years ago. If the strict regulations envisaged under this Bill applied at that time, I am quite sure that vessel would not be allowed to dock. This vessel tried to dock in a port in Spain and was refused entry; yet, it came to our shores and the accident cost 50 lives. We must at all times endeavour to strenuously apply such regulations.

In this Bill the Minister broadens the existing legislation to cover small boats, including pleasure craft or ferry vessels which carry fewer than 12 people. I come from the south-west where we have the 100 isles of Carbery. In my locality, Bantry Bay, there is the beautiful Garnish Island. There are a number of pleasure craft and ferry crafts, varying from the 30-40 seaters to much smaller craft carrying eight or ten passengers, or perhaps fewer passengers, operating to and from this island. It is a major industry. It is a fundamental issue to ensure that all safety regulations are properly enforced in the interest of those travelling. Whiddy Island is famous for other reasons and we have Bere Island and many other islands around our coastline. Small craft take people to and from the islands as well as stock and various other commodities.

The third major emphasis in the Bill is that the Minister has included strict penalties and fines particularly in relation to the bigger seagoing vessels. This must be encouraged and I welcome it.

I also welcome the proposed new amendment whereby small pleasure craft will be dealt with by on-the-spot fines. In other words, if a family go to sea — mother, father and two or three children — and if they breach the safety regulations, rather than dragging these people through the courts it is envisaged in this Bill that there can be on-the-spot fines to deal with the matter there and then. However, I do not think it is the intention of this Bill to discourage pleasure craft activities or indeed small fishing craft along our shoreline.

I would envisage off our coastline and on our lakes or on the Shannon, where there is considerable navigation and many pleasure craft that a sort of "Baywatch" could be set up, where there would possibly be a guard on duty on the beach or in an area where there is a lot of activity to ensure there is proper respect for the sea by those operating vessels and that the safety of people bathing or swimming is also protected. This is something that would be envisaged under this Bill.

I concur with some of the previous speakers in relation to the manpower to cover all these situations. This is something that should be gradually introduced so that over the next four, five or six years the Department and their officials would educate the people living on our coastline and those who come here on holidays or who visit here for commercial reasons so that in the future we will have a much safer coastline.

I agree with the compliments paid to the safety and rescue services. Indeed, I would also compliment the RAF who from time to time have carried out rescues off our coastline. In my own area they were responsible for several meritorious acts of life-saving — for example, the case of the Kowloon Bridge where 15 or 16 crewmen were airlifted off this vessel some 50 or 60 miles off the Mizen Head lighthouse in atrocious weather conditions. I would like to compliment the Minister and wish him success. I commend the Bill to this House as a very appropriate piece of legislation, which in conjunction with existing legislation, will make our shoreline a safer place for people whether for pleasure or commercial activities.

I, too, would like to welcome the Minister to the House and welcome his decision to introduce the Bill here. It is a progressive and positive measure. Like some other Bills we have had recently coming through the House, it tidies up old legislation and deals with developments in the growth of smaller vessels and pleasure vessels and the dangers that arise as a result of such growth and such increased activity. It is important that the operators of such vessels are subject to full regulatory requirements and it is also important that there are guidelines for safety. We go to great lengths to ensure that our roadways are in a satisfactory state and that vehicles on the road are mechanically in order. However, we do not have the same concentration on our pleasure cruisers or smaller vessels, those carrying fewer than 12 passengers. Therefore, I welcome this decision to introduce the Bill to regulate the situation.

For success of any regulation it is important that there is a proper policing policy. There is no point in having regulations and so on if you do not have a proper policing mechanism to ensure that the spirit and details of the legislation are implemented. I believe that our waterways, like our roads, have many dangers and hazards. It is important, therefore, that the regulations that control these hazards are properly policed. I welcome the fact that marine surveyors from the Department of the Marine will carry out annual surveys of vessels. This is a very importat check, because, like cars — and it a fair comparison — it is important that vessels are checked for their mechanical condition to ensure they are of a proper standard and that they comply with the regulations as required by the legislation here.

There is a welcome increase in our tourist business and from that a welcome increase in the level of activity on our rivers and off our coast. In my own area we are looking forward to further growth in activity along the Shannon, expecially at the estuary of the Shannon. There is great potential in that area. That has been recognised and some investment has gone to improving that facility and developing it. We would have criticism about the pace of the development, and some of the actual development, but there is a great opportunity there and the Government should not neglect it.

As a consequence of such development we have an increase in smaller vessels, those carrying fewer than 12 passengers; this Bill covers the safety aspects in these cases. It is important that the monitoring and enforcement of the legislation should be carefully recorded and evaluated. It is very important also that the public should be aware of what is in the Bill, aware of the standards required for such vessels, because thre is no better watcghdog than the general public when they become aware of the safety standards required. Many people who travel in such vessels are unlikely to be marine-orientated, although some will. Many will be on pleasure trips or, as somebody already mentioned, visiting the many islands. They will not be very conscious of the marine environment. However it is important that they be aware of the safety requirements and of the dangers if such requirements are not fully complied with.

As well as the officials of the Department of the Marine, those people also will be watchdogs for the enforcement of this legislation. It is important, therefore, that the Minister and his Department organise and maintain a proper publicity campaign to ensure that the public are aware of what is required. A once-off campaign at the introduction of the Bill would not be adequate. While the placing of notices at ports and marinas is very important, it is not sufficient to educate the public into what they should expect from people operating such vessels. The Minister should embark on a full publicity campaign especially during the tourist season, say, from May to September. A campaign of awareness should be carried out by the Department to ensure that the public are aware of what is required of the people who give them such service.

There are just a few points I would like to ask the Minister with regard to the standards themselves. How will the procedures and the standards outlined in the Bill be enforced? What are the penalties if such requirements are not enforced and what is the procedure to introduce such sanctions? How will a crew be sanctioned if they do not comply with the regulations in the Bill? What power has the captain of the vessel to ensure that his crew comply with the regulations in the Bill?

At this stage I would like to congratulate those involved in pollution control. Pollution obviously takes place as a result of accidents and sometimes because of less than proper care being taken by large or small vessels. I would like to pay tribute to the work done by people dealing with pollution control. This was highlighted recently by the tragic collision of the mv Kilkenny in Dublin Bay. An excellent job was done to control the pollutant aspect as a result of that unfortunate accident.

Over the years there has been a growing concern about the collision of fishing vessels with submarines just under the surface and there is a case for looking at that situation. There is a case for an international discussion between ourselves and our partners in the EC, and countries outside the EC, who may be involved. As a result of recent political developments in Europe and internationally I do not know what purpose these vessels serve in our waters at all other than as part of some naval exercises. I fail to understand the defensive role they might have in present political circumstances in Europe and in the broader world context. There is a case for obtaining an agreement on banning and removing such vessels completely from our fishing grounds. The Government should initiate discussions with those who are involved in such activities.

I welcome the fact that fishing vessels are included in the regulations. Nobody knows better than fishermen the dangers and hazards involved in their work. I also welcome the fact that legislation allows the master of the crew the right to refuse a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol to go on board such a vessel. That is self-explanatory; it is not necessary to spell it out. It highlights the hazardous nature of the type of operation we are talking about. It highlights the need for caution, safety and a sensible approach to this.

There are a few bodies to which I would like to pay tribute. They are often forgotten, because perhaps this type of legislation does not often come up where we have the opportunity to name some of the organisations who, year in and year out, are available to people in distress, to people who have accidents on board ships and whose members often risk their own lives to ensure the safety of others. I think we should commend our own Air Corps rescue service, who have an excellent record in this respect. We should also compliment the Air Corps and the RAF for the co-operation between them in rescue operations around our shores. It is an excellent headline in co-operation between two bodies who are above reproach in their dedication to duty. We should also welcome the inshore rescue service, the beach lifeguards around our coasts, who do an excellent job during the summer months, the Garda Sub-aqua club, the fire brigades and all others involved in marine safety and rescue activity.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Minister. I welcome the legislation and wish it well through its final Stages in the House.

I would like to welcome the Minister to the House. Marine resources are of great benefit to all our people and much greater benefits could be gained from it if properly utilised. Major steps have been taken in the last number of years to develop our inland waterways and coastal waters. The creation of the Department of the Marine in 1987 provided a much needed boost for the development of marine and has proved very successful, ending wasteful duplication and unsatisfactory deployment of resources. This Merchant Shipping Bill is very welcome as it improves safety standards, laying down strict criteria to be followed by all passenger vessels at a time when many opportunities for expanding water-based tourist activities exist. The Bill enables the Minister to make regulations governing the safety of fishing vessels and their crew, who contribute so much to the economy.

The proposal to bring the licensing of vessels carrying fewer than 12 passengers under the Merchant Shipping Act is very welcome in respect of passengers on rivers, canals and estuaries. I believe that the development of our inland waterways, in particular our canals, for navigation would be of tremendous benefit to many parts of this country; but tourists will only use these facilities if they feel safe. This legislation provides this safety, with annual surveys of vessels being carried out by Department of the Marine surveyors. The recruitment by the Civil Service Commission at present for the survey section of the Department of the Marine will ensure that the manpower is available to carry out these checks.

There is a duty on all of us to ensure that this legislation is strictly enforced and that the public are aware of its provisions. I believe the greatest monitoring would come through an aware public who are conscious that legislation provides for no risk whatsoever to be taken by them in regard to travelling on our waters inside or outside the island. This will only come about by an effective advertising campaign and effective enforcement.

We are all full of admiration for our fishermen, who operate in very difficult weather conditions. The working conditions of deck crews can be very dangerous. Sheltered decks would make fishing vessels much safer but bring about unacceptable problems with regard to added tonnage. However, these people who harvest our seas must always consider safety first and this Bill legislates for that.

I commend the introduction of legislation to allow the masters or crew of any vessels to deal with passengers or crew members under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is very welcome for the comfort and safety of these individuals and others.

Safety at sea requires constant review as the weather is entirely unpredictable. However, those who work at sea must live with the danger and for them it becomes a way of life. From time to time accidents occur and in this country the emergency services are excellent. The lifeboat crews around the coast often will voluntarily go to sea to save lives in atrocious conditions. The Air Corps Rescue Service has an excellent record. The RAF rescue tesms have assisted on many occasions in rescue missions off our coasts in stormy conditions. Indeed, they have given great co-operation to the Air Corps. The inshore rescue service has a brilliant record of bravery. The beach lifeguards, the Garda Sub-aqua club, the fire brigades and many more are involved in these admirable activities. It is important that in this debate we record our appreciation of them.

This Bill is a good and positive piece of legislation to update the law in a practical way and make it more relevant in this decade and in the next century. I compliment the Government on introducing this Bill to modernise the law and make people use our waterways more safely. Once again I would like to compliment the Minister on this very welcome Bill.

I join in welcoming the Minister to the Seanad, his first time here in his new capacity as the Minister for the Marine. If he brings the quality of caring and intelligent concern that he brought to his previous ministries, I am sure he will be equally successful in discharging this function.

I welcome the Bill and the various provisions it makes for bringing the licensing of vessels carrying not more than 12 people under the scope of the Merchant Shipping Act for the first time, updating the level of penalties and in particular, dealing with the very vexed question of submarine traffic and the dangers posed to our shipping fleet by this. There have been a number of casualties, not only of Irish fishermen but also of United Kingdom fishermen. It is extremely welcome and I congratulate the Minister for it.

However, the principal point that I wish to address today is what I see as a significant and serious moral defect in the Bill. Despite the fact that the title of the Bill is Merchant Shipping Bill, 1991, it does not anywhere, nor did the Minister, address an appalling problem that exists, that is, the responsibility of this State to the former employees of Irish Shipping. I say this because we have heard a good deal of reasonable and emotive argument about those in peril on the sea, etc. An opportunity has not been provided to have this matter discussed and I would like to put a few points on the record and perhaps the Minister would see his way to addressing it. It would have been perfectly appropriate——

The Senator is going a little outside the terms of the Bill. I have allowed him draw attention to it but a speech on that matter would be outside what is appropriate to the Bill.

I will be guided by the Chair. I want to find out if we can have an opportunity to discuss this. I accept that it is not in the Bill but I believe the Minister ought to address this point. I will leave it at that. If I may have the Chair's indulgence to put about a paragraph on the record because that is all I want to say.

Acting Chairman

A brief paragraph.

All parties are responsible and all parties are guilty. There is an obligation to pay those who have served the State so well some degree of pension. What has happened is appalling. In March 1987 the Minister told the Dáil that he expected to report to the House in a reasonable time and nothing happened. The Minister reassured us on 24 November that he would do his best to have the matter brought to conclusion as quickly as possible. On 3 May 1988 it was going to be shortly brought before the House. On 30 May 1990 they were still awaiting a report, and they are still awaiting it. I accept the ruling of the Chair.

I have detailed information about the legal responsibilities of the Government, about the fact that in an extraordinary way they forced Irish Shipping to buy a ship from Verolme Dockyard in order to save——

Acting Chairman

I do not wish to rule the Senator totally our of order. Would the Senator now care to continue with a speech on the Bill which is before the House?

I thank the Chair for allowing me to put that on the record. I do not wish to be negative about this Bill. It is an important, useful addition to legislation in this area. I listened on the monitor with considerable interest to some of my other colleagues, Senators Fitzgerald and O'Toole, who have a knowledge and an interest in this area, and also to Senator O'Brien. I do not wish to make any detailed comment upon the Bill. It is not an area of my expertise. It would be futile and would waste the time of the House. I do not propose to do that but I look for an opportunity to address in the appropriate way, at the appropriate time and with the assistance of the Chair this lamentable situation in which the rights of people are——

Acting Chairman

The Senator has had latitude from the Chair. Would the Senator kindly resume his seat?

In reply to Senator Norris, I am having that matter re-examined and I am certainly very conscious of it.

I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that.

I thank Senators for their comments and widespread welcome for the Bill. Quite a number of points were made in the course of the debate. The importance and value of safety, the lives that can be saved and the lives that have been saved already is an important area. I am very happy that Senators recognised the importance of the measures which we are introducing in this Bill.

I am very happy that Senator Jackman welcomed what I am doing in relation to on-the-spot fines for pleasure boats. A number of Senators mentioned the question of fines generally. I would like to stress that for the different sectors in the Bill we have some very heavy fines. For failure or refusal to have a survey the fine is £1,000 on summary conviction or £10,000 on indictment. Failure or refusal to comply with the conditions of a certificate could incur a fine of up to £100,000. That is an enormous fine. I undertook to re-examine the penalties and we strengthened some of them considerably. The contravention of licence conditions incurs a fine of up to £50,000. One Senator mentioned that £200 was a fairly small fine but that only applies in cases of failure to produce a licence within ten days. If one does not have a licence one incurs a higher fine in addition to that.

The fines are very stiff. There has been a substantial increase in the fines. They are realistic and I think Senators will be very happy with the package of fines. I am particularly happy that Senators have welcomed in relation to pleasure craft, the power which this extra amendment will give me to bring in by regulation additional on-the-spot fines. Following the advice and recommendations of the safety committee, which is already sitting and examining that whole question, the regulations will be introduced. I intend to move ahead with that fairly urgent.

I would like to make clear to Senators that my whole approach will be a very urgent one. I have made that clear. I thank Senators for giving me the support that I asked for in ensuring a speedy passage of the Bill through the House. It will help me to have part of the Bill in operation for the summer and that is important.

Senator Jackman questioned whether the crewmen were responsible or whether the captain only was responsible for conduct. They are both responsible. The crew persons and the captain are responsible for their actions or their conduct.

Senator McGowan stressed the importance of providing safety measures for holidaymakers particularly. He questioned the condition of some of the boats and the number of people who were carried in them. Smaller boats carrying people to and from the islands must comply with the conditions of the Bill so that the safety of holidaymakers is assured. He also raised the question of the certificate two months prior. There can, as he said, be damage in the last week. The boat would still have to be seaworthy under a separate section. That would be a requirement all the time. The Senator also wanted to be sure that a number would be seen. The requirement is that a licence number be displayed on the side of the vessel and also the number of passengers that can be carried.

Senator Harte stressed the need for publicity. It is my intention to ensure that people are made aware of the requirements of the Bill. I recognise the need for that and welcome the fact that it has been stressed here today.

I recognise the need for life saving equipment. I have had experience both on the sea and on rivers, the Shannon particularly and even in swimming pools, of people drowning. I have been involved in a number of these incidents myself. Even in large swimming pools it is possible for people to drown. I am very conscious of the need for safety. Senator McGowan talked about the need to have a life belt for every individual on a boat. I will take that idea on board. It is an excellent suggestion.

The question of competence on pleasure craft and yachts was raised by Senator Harte. I want to assure him that we have powers to provide for that. These committees will look at that to see what would be the best approach. We have the power to make regulations where necessary.

Senator Fitzgerald suggested that I should not be too hard on anglers but I must stress that the definition of a fishing vessel is a vessel other than a vessel registered outside the State used for sea fishing or for angling in the sea or in fresh water other than such a vessel so used otherwise than for profit — and that includes vessels used for angling. I am conscious of the Senator's concerns and I will keep them in mind. He also mentioned harbour authorities. I can assure him that their powers will be increased under this Bill.

The need for surveyors was stressed. A programme of recruitment for surveyors to carry out all the functions of the Marine Survey Office of the Department of the Marine is in place. The posts were advertised in the newspapers and the applications are currently being processed by the Civil Service Commission. We will have more surveyors and, as a result, should get through the inspections of pleasure craft quickly.

The Minister thinks of everything.

We try to think as much as possible. The points made by Senators were very helpful. I mentioned to my officials on a few occasions that we must remember a certain point and deal with it in a different and novel way.

Senator O'Toole talked about wrecks. A wreck and salvage Bill will be introduced soon which will deal with this issue. Section 19 of this Bill deals with the safety of fishing vessels and their crews. Senator O'Toole is concerned about currachs in this connection. The safety committee will advise me about that. Senator O'Donovan stressed the importance of safety for those travelling to and from islands. That is an area about which we are particularly concerned. He welcomed on-the-spot fines for pleasure craft and stressed the "Baywatch" approach. We must take the tourist business seriously. That point has been stressed by a number of Senators and I intend to do that. Not only must we do our homework and enact legislation but we must make sure that people appreciate what we are doing and its importance. As Senator O'Donovan said, we must educate people about safety.

Senator Neville mentioned publicity and the need for proper policing. These aspects will be taken on board. The Department of the Marine co-ordinate the different activities which enable us to meet the needs of the marine sector.

I welcome what Senator O'Brien said about the positive nature of this legislation. The people who harvest the sea must be safeguarded. This is something we are all very anxious about, but sometimes people can be a little slip-shod. Mention was made of section 9 (c) which allows for the revoking or suspension of a certificate where the vessel may have been damaged. This arises when damage may have occured between inspections.

I thank Senators for their comments.

Acting Chairman

I welcome the Minister to the House, particularly since he represents a maritime constituency.

Question put and agreed to.