Maritime Security Bill 2004: Second Stage.

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

Molaim an Bille don Teach. I commend this Bill to Seanad Éireann. It is a necessary technical measure to give effect to the 1988 United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and also to the 1988 Protocol to that Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf. The texts of the convention and protocol are contained in Schedules 1 and 2 to the Bill.

Both the convention and protocol are in force since 1 March 1992. The contracting states thereto now number 78 and 71 respectively, including almost all of the EU member states and seven of the states which will join the EU on 1 May 2004. Ireland could become a contracting state to the convention and protocol only following enactment of this Bill and formal approval of the terms of the convention and protocol by Dáil Éireann pursuant to Article 29.5.2° of Bunreacht na hÉireann because expenditure is likely to arise in that context. Section 13 of the Bill also refers.

Ireland's accession to the convention and protocol could not have effect until 90 days after the instrument of accession is deposited with the secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation, headquartered in London, as specifically provided for in Article 18.2 of the convention and Article 6.2 of the protocol. The need to proceed with the Bill to early enactment has been reinforced by recent terrorist atrocities in Madrid and elsewhere. We extend our sympathy to the bereaved and injured and commit ourselves to greater vigilance and further international co-operation against terrorism. All member states of the United Nations must have the necessary laws in place to deal with very mobile, serious offenders to ensure they will not escape jurisdiction. More important, the law must be dissuasive, with sufficiently strong penalties, search and enforcement provisions. This Bill, therefore, addresses a particular gap in Irish law which should be filled as quickly as possible. The Government is committed to ensuring that other legislative measures which may be agreed at EU level or at the wider UN level to enhance maritime security will be made part of Irish law without delay.

In that connection, I will continue to work closely with my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who is sponsoring the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 which is now before Dáil Éireann. That Bill gives effect to several international instruments directed against terrorism and is generally intended to enhance the capacity of the State to address international terrorism. The 1988 convention and protocol are among 12 international conventions and protocols drawn up specifically to help prevent and suppress terrorism. Following the terrible terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York, the United Nations Security Council on 28 September adopted Resolution 1373 calling on all UN member states which had not yet done so to become parties to all 12 conventions and protocols as soon as possible. Ireland is already party to six of the international instruments referred to. The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, sponsored by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, gives effect to an additional four, while the Maritime Security Bill 2004 now before this House gives effect to the remaining two, namely, the 1988 maritime convention and protocol referred to.

In the light of the recent terrible Madrid bombings and, more particularly in the context of the EU Presidency, the Government wishes that both Houses of the Oireachtas would deal with both Bills and enact them soon. That would clearly signal our resolve to press for greater co-operation between states in working against international terrorism in all of its many manifestations. While much of the Maritime Security Bill is, of necessity, modelled on provisions of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, a separate Bill was decided upon to deal with maritime security matters, which are of a somewhat specialised nature, by analogy with the separate legislative provisions made in the Air Navigation and Transport Acts to safeguard air navigation and transport against certain unlawful acts.

Section 2 of the Maritime Security Bill 2004 creates certain offences against the safety of Irish ships and other ships which are in Irish territorial waters, as specifically required by the convention and protocol, and against any fixed platforms on Ireland's continental shelf, while section 3 is a standard type extension of Ireland's jurisdiction to allow prosecution in the State for breaches of the convention or protocol committed outside the State. In either case, the penalty is life imprisonment on conviction on indictment. The specific offences listed in section 2 of the Bill mirror those set out in Article 3 of the convention and Article 2 of the protocol.

Sections 4 to 8 of the Bill supplement those principal provisions by providing powers for search on a ship or fixed platform on which an offence was believed to have been committed or an alleged offender is on board, and for the apprehension, detention and prosecution of alleged offenders or handing them over for prosecution to the appropriate authorities of another State party to the convention and protocol. Sections 9 to 12, while ensuring the avoidance of double jeopardy in any case arising under the Bill, also ensure that, due to the gravity of the offences to which it refers, the most stringent requirements of the Bail Act 1997 and other relevant Acts will apply thereto. Thus, an application for bail in the case of a person charged with murder or attempted murder could only be made to the High Court, and bail may be refused in any event to a person charged with a serious offence under the Bill, when enacted, if the court considers it necessary to refuse bail in order to prevent the commission of a further serious offence. Moreover, offences under the Bill cannot be regarded as political offences so as to prevent the extradition of the alleged offender from the State to the requested state.

I have already dealt with section 13 of the Bill, which is a standard provision to cover expenditure in the administration of the Bill when enacted. The remainder of the Bill, section 1, the interpretation section, and section 14, Short Title, is also on standard lines. A detailed explanatory and financial memorandum was published with the Bill. I will of course be glad to provide any further information required by Senators to facilitate their consideration of the Bill, the early enactment of which is a pressing matter for the State. I therefore look forward to the assistance of Senators in its passage.

The Maritime Security Bill is timely but it is amazing that it was not enacted long before now in view of the declaration made by the United Nations in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. The EU Presidency and recent tragic events in Madrid have helped us to focus on safety, maritime and other. Among the recent measures at EU level is the appointment of a top official to spearhead the communications and intelligence area to strengthen the fight against international terrorism. In the global context of safety and security the actions of al-Qaeda in New York, the events in Madrid and the spectre of international terrorism have helped us all to focus on this issue. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, who comes from County Louth, is probably aware of the extreme concern throughout the country about Sellafield and the potential hazard it poses. This is not confined to past activities. The Commission has investigated the matter and issued a directive to BNFL to clean up its act. This must be welcome as Sellafield is so close to Ireland and generates half a tonne of radioactive waste.

It has been recognised that this poses a safety hazard to this country. We hold the EU Presidency and most of us welcome the forthcoming visit of President Bush to Ireland. However, in view of what has happened internationally it behoves us to be extra vigilant. It appears that no country is safe from terrorists. Our security authorities must be forceful over the next few months in preparation for this visit.

It is a shocking indictment that our independent agency, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, cannot gain access to Sellafield to carry out an independent verification of what is happening there. I urge the Minister to ensure this is permitted as soon as possible. We were recently informed that the distribution of iodine tablets to households throughout the country was a wasted exercise. They offer no help to people's health in the event of any radioactive fallout. They should be destroyed because they are of no use.

The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf 1988. The convention and protocol are among a suite of international instruments against terrorism which member states of the United Nations are enjoined by Security Council Resolution 1373 of 28 September 2001 to implement as soon as possible. The terms of the convention and protocol require approval through the Dáil pursuant to Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution and the Bill must be enacted before Ireland can be a party to them.

The Bill creates specific offences against the safety of Irish ships and other ships in Irish territorial waters and against fixed platforms on the continental shelf, subject to imprisonment for life on conviction on indictment. It consequentially provides, on standard lines, for extraterritorial jurisdiction to cover offences committed outside the State in breach of the convention or protocol, for the apprehension and detention of alleged offenders and the handing over of them to the appropriate authorities, and for extradition, bail, avoidance of double jeopardy and other necessary matters, on the model of provisions contained in the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002, which is before the Dáil. It also makes necessary provision with regard to four other international conventions against terrorism.

Fine Gael fully supports this Bill and believes these measures are long overdue. It is likely that its passage through the Oireachtas has been accelerated in the aftermath of the 11 March atrocities in Madrid and the renewed international focus on the need to crack down on terrorism. It is important that the passage of the Bill is expedited as Ireland currently holds the Presidency of the European Union. We cannot be seen to be lagging behind our neighbours when we are supposed to be leading them.

The Bill offers Fine Gael the opportunity to spell out its vision of new Irish defence arrangements. In our document, Beyond Neutrality, we stated that Fine Gael advocates an EU defence entity, where Ireland plays a full and active role in its development based upon the following five key principals: adherence to the fundamental principles of the United Nations; a commitment to the vigorous pursuit of the goal of universal nuclear and biological disarmament and to a solemn undertaking by the European Union defence entity not to use either type of weapon; a commitment to mutual defence and support, but with specific opt-in provisions for individual states; a commitment to the provision of peacekeeping and peace-making operations and to the Petersberg Tasks, humanitarian aid, search and rescue etc., and respect for the right of other member states to be involved in other military alliances.

If Ireland does not contribute to the debate on a common EU security and defence policy then it cannot complain when a policy is unveiled which addresses the concerns and aspirations of other states, but not our own. The Government talked out of both sides of its mouth on the war on terror, while Fine Gael unequivocally opposed the attack on Iraq due to its lack of international legitimacy. Our proposals are realistic, workable and, above all, honest. This is in stark contrast to the Government's vague policy.

Fine Gael welcomes the Bill and hopes it will be implemented before the end of the Irish EU Presidency. This and the other legislation going through the Dáil, together with the changes which have taken place at European Union level prove that, at last, action is being taken to ensure that Europe and the world remain a safe place and that we rid ourselves of the terrorist threat.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also welcome this legislation which gives effect to the United Nations convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 and the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf 1988 signed in Rome on 10 March of that year. One could wonder why it has taken 16 years for legislation to be prepared to give effect to these conventions. The Minister of State alluded to that and explained that it has been given urgency as a result of the recent atrocities in Madrid.

One of the biggest issues today for every country is security. We seem to debate it in one form or another almost daily. Recently in this House we debated Second Stage of the Private Security Services Bill, while Committee Stage was passed today. It has no direct relevance to the measure before us, but it is one more element of the huge subject of national and international security which reflects the changed nature of our society.

Section 2 encapsulates what the Bill is about, the giving of safe passage to commercial ships and the protection of fixed platform personnel with the normal laws by which society lives today. It prohibits anything which prevents or interrupts the safe passage of a ship, whether the taking of a vessel by force, damage to navigational aids, or damage to or destruction of a ship or a fixed platform in some way.

These acts must be deplored and any measure we can take, or any international assistance we can give, within the terms of our laws and Constitution, should be readily and generously forthcoming. If we have been taught anything by our recent history, it is that we must combat the threat regardless from what quarter it emanates.

Two words not far from people's lips might best be described as the "S" and "T" words. The "S" word in this instance stands for security while the "T" word is one which may sometimes only be whispered and, like the word "bomb", if uttered in the wrong company or place, could land a person in deep trouble and ultimately in prison. It stands for terrorism, a word and an act with which we in Ireland have been all too familiar over the past 35 years and which has a particular resonance in this country. Terrorism can, as it is designed to, strike terror into the heart of an ever-increasing number of people worldwide.

In America, it has been found necessary, in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, to set up a Department of Homeland Security. This has happened in the mightiest and wealthiest country in the world, a country with seemingly limitless resources which was so distant from the land of its enemies that it thought itself secure from attack on its soil. This security disappeared on that fateful September morning two and a half years ago, when the world finally woke up to a global threat of a kind which had previously been the preserve of large countries with extensive resources. Instead, the threat, and ultimately the deed, came from a relatively small group of single-minded fanatics who were uncaring of the consequences of their actions.

America's confidence and the world's innocence disappeared in the cloud of dust from the collapse of the World Trade Centre. This new style of terror is not dependent on smuggling a large bomb aboard an aircraft in order to achieve thousands of casualties or to inflict enormous damage on buildings. In the case of the events of 11 September 2001, the bombs were already on board. All that was required was a trigger from a person who had no regard for his or her safety.

Just 911 days later, we were again reminded of how easy it is to inflict horrendous death and destruction on an unsuspecting public. We all saw the television pictures of the Madrid outrage. That is the kind of threat with which we are faced today and the type of fanaticism with which we have to contend. Measures such as those contained in the legislation before us, while modest enough in the overall scheme, should be embraced enthusiastically.

At any given time we do not know from where a threat will come. In today's climate it is not difficult to see why seemingly innocuous conventions take on a greater significance. It is essential that we ally ourselves with those who want freedom of movement in national and international waters and endorse these conventions by ratifying the Bill before the House. The art of terror has reached new heights, or perhaps I should say depths, in recent years.

Ireland is a maritime country, a fact which impacts on the cost of imported everyday goods. Anyone who has ever aspired to a foreign holiday is aware there is extensive water to cross before reaching his or her destination. Previous generations have told us of the social hardships endured during the last war through being isolated on the western fringe of Europe where we were dependent on a small but brave and dedicated merchant fleet. There will always be water between us and Britain and even more so between us and America. That may be stating the obvious, but it is a fact with which we have to deal daily and with which we will have to deal in the future.

We are totally dependent for survival on the safe passage of our ships and aircraft. The conventions we are considering can help to ensure the safety and security of air and sea traffic. It is also intended to extend those benefits to other signatory countries.

While the terrorist threat is uppermost in our minds at present, we should not lose sight of another threat to our health and safety, namely the presence of the environmental time bomb that is Sellafield which is a short distance across the Irish Sea. Anyone who watched the news bulletins last evening must have been struck by two of the main stories of the day. One related to the presence of vast and unquantified tanks full of plutonium stored at Sellafield. The second related to the seizure by police of half a tonne of material capable of being converted with relative ease into a massive bomb. If these two scenarios were put together one would have a situation which does not bear thinking about.

I briefly digress to commend the efforts of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to focus British minds on the problem of Sellafield and to put pressure on British Nuclear Fuels Limited to clean up its act. A two-month deadline has now been set for compliance. We must vigorously pursue this matter until it has been brought to a successful conclusion.

Those who think about the possibilities shudder at the prospect of a seaborne threat to the facility either from a hijacked or purpose-built ship. Such an attack appears all too easy to achieve. We must also consider the potential threat to ships which carry hazardous waste to Sellafield through the only channel available, the Irish Sea.

The act of crashing an airliner with a few tonnes of fuel to make a massive bomb may have seemed the ultimate terrorist act in the recent past. The same could be said of placing bombs on crowded commuter trains to cause a couple of hundred deaths. However, such acts pale into insignificance when compared to a successful attack on Sellafield. The most bitter irony is that we have no idea what chance of success such an attack would have. As we have seen in the past, there is every likelihood that grave short-cuts have been taken in the construction and maintenance of this greatly discredited nuclear facility. Sellafield is an inviting and potentially rewarding terrorist target with an unknown defence capability.

I have dwelled at length on the terrorist aspect of the legislation because it is real, proven and likely to be repeated. The British experience yesterday proves that. There is a real threat to shipping, one we are not convinced is being taken seriously enough. Neither are we convinced that enough is being done to counter it. Although they are limited in scope, the conventions can have a positive effect, but they need our approval.

Our dependence on the sea is vital to our national interest. We cannot allow any opportunity to pass to endorse our support for the free and safe passage of shipping. We deplore the reckless transport of nuclear waste and decommissioned warships with a hazard potential, which pass so close to our shores and which would occupy our waters if we allowed them. They are an ever-present temptation to hijackers and terrorists and should not be towed unprotected three thousand miles across the Atlantic.

Will the Minister inform the House of the new maritime security measures due to come into effect on 1 July? Where will they be put in place and will they meet this deadline? The sea is an essential part of our lifeblood. The Bill presents us with a tangible opportunity to assist in its protection and we should grasp this with both hands. I commend the Bill to the House.

The legislation stems from our support for UN protocols arising from the events of 11 September 2001. Why has it taken two and a half years for the legislation to come before the House? The Minister of State, Deputy Browne, stated that it is urgent that this be dealt with in the context of the EU Presidency and of what happened recently in Madrid. The world was alerted to a whole new threat of global terrorism as a result of the events of 11 September 2001. Nobody will forget where they were or what they were doing when they first saw that extraordinary and incredible footage of the aeroplanes crashing into the World Trade Centre in New York. Those events heralded an era in which the world was effectively at war in the context of terrorism.

That was not the first act of terrorism by the al-Qaeda group. Other terrorist acts were previously perpetrated against US forces in the Middle East. The book recently published by Dick Clarke revealed that warnings were issued to US authorities that this group was planning a major terrorist attack in the US. However, that is in the past. We are now faced with the present and the prospect of a very different future.

Terrorism is now a reality. The events in Madrid showed us that it is also a reality in Europe. Nobody knows in what part of the world terrorists will next strike. We have had our own experience of terrorism so, unfortunately, we are familiar with the concept. In effect, that terrorism was limited to one part of the country and to Britain. In recent years the authorities in Britain have developed security technology to maintain protection against terrorism. This has allowed them to be pre-emptive, as we witnessed yesterday in the arrest of suspected terrorists. We do not know the full facts of the matter but that is how it appears. We are fortunate to live next door to a nation that is so well equipped to deal with this problem and that we have so much experience and a network of legislation to deal with terrorism here.

The global situation in regard to terrorism is entirely different from what it was in the past. This legislation is necessary and is part of our international obligation and duty to support the UN protocol. My party has no objection to Second Stage. However, we will tease out elements of the legislation and table amendments. It is broad-ranging and sweeping legislation which is sometimes necessary.

Senator Kenneally spoke about security and terrorism issues but we must remember there is a context for this. Terrorism is always intolerable and unacceptable. It must be eradicated, dealt with and always fought against by way of the most stringent measures possible. We must also remember that there is a political context in this regard. What we are currently looking at in terms of the international political scene is a context for global terrorism. As a member of the European Union primarily, and as a member of the global community, this country has a role to play and a responsibility in how we deal with the issue. We cannot sit on the fence or stand idly by and watch while events take place as if they have nothing to do with us. The Iraqi war had something to do with us. We are a member of the United Nations and that war took place without UN approval. As American writers have said, the Iraqi war was in itself an act of terrorism as were the events of 11 September 2001. We cannot get into which is worse as an act of terrorism. In standing for international law, which I hope this State will do, we must stand for the rule of law against terrorism because all we have is the rule of law. In this context we are talking about the rule of international law, by which I hope this nation will always stand.

We need to consider our relationship with the United States. We cannot accept everything it is doing because, as American commentators and writers say, there is a case to be made that the current US Administration is set on a course of action which is generating greater international terrorism and will continue to do so in terms of what is happening in the Middle East, particularly in Israel and Palestine. We are creating at least 100 years, if not more, of horrendous difficulty not just in that entire area but across the world. What happens in Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan reverberates in Madrid and New York and I have no doubt in other places also.

This cannot be separated from what we are doing in this House today. We must be cognisant of the context in which we now operate. Given our membership of the European Union and our relationship with the United States, we must always take a stand for international law. We need to assess the ever changing complexities of international politics, particularly in the Middle East, Afghanistan and so on. We cannot ignore it because the world is now effectively at war. It is a war of terrorism which we never expected to happen. However, it is now with us and we need to deal with it. We cannot stand by and pretend it is just an issue of security and getting our legislation right. We must be active on the political stage also.

I look forward to Committee Stage and teasing out particular issues in the legislation.

I welcome the Minister of State and I am pleased to have an opportunity to make a few points on the Maritime Security Bill.

Everyone here knows that terrorism is not just a threat but a reality in Ireland, Europe and across the world. The fact that terrorism is no longer confined to national borders indicates that we can no longer anticipate the methods or groups which may attack civilian or political targets and, in the interest of safety and prevention, we must be equipped for any eventuality. People have suffered at the hands of terrorists mediating through air and air transport. It is, therefore, reasonable to prepare for the potential threat posed from terrorism at sea.

The Maritime Security Bill puts in place legal parameters that intensify the fight against terror and increase international co-operation between countries which will not tolerate offensive and cowardly terrorist attacks on their citizens. By endorsing the legislation, we are saying that in the same way terrorists operate on a cross-border basis, so will we through increased collaboration and unity of approach. We will build on the progress already achieved in this regard and continue to do so in line with the Irish Presidency declaration and the European Council strategic objectives for the EU plan of action to combat terrorism.

In December 2002, the diplomatic conference of the International Maritime Organisation adopted a series of measures to strengthen maritime security, including the preclusion and clamp down on acts of terrorism against shipping. These include a new international shipping port facilities security code. I understand the maritime safety directorate in the Minister's Department is currently involved in the process of co-ordinating the implementation of the new security requirements to ensure all relevant ship owners, ports and port facilities will be compliant by 1 July. The Maritime Security Bill enhances these provisions and creates specific offences against the safety of Irish ships and other ships in Irish territorial waters.

Maritime security has always been an important issue for Fianna Fáil Governments. It is vital that we implement the legislation to give effect to the UN convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation as a protocol of that convention. The legislation comes in the wake of many other important international conventions which have been adopted by Ireland to combat terrorism and have assisted in legislation such as the Criminal Justice Bill 2002 now before the Dáil. Fianna Fáil is continuing its commitment to develop and enhance our maritime security regime through other endeavours, including the establishment of a new independent maritime safety agency, increased staffing to deliver on port State control commitments and progressing the proposal on particularly sensitive sea areas in consultation with our European colleagues.

These initiatives are all features of a progressive dedicated Government, steadfast in its aims of increasing security on Irish waters and pro-active in its approach to dealing with terrorism. I am pleased that as part of Ireland's Presidency programme a pan-European maritime safety forum was opened to discuss the heightened security threats posed to global shipping by acts of terrorism. In line with the provision of the Maritime Security Bill to increase liaison between states at an international level, the forum will be attended by representatives from EU member states, accession states and other European countries, together with representatives of the European Commission, the European Maritime Safety Agency and key interested parties in the maritime sector. This is the constructive and pro-active approach needed to tackle the tangible problems posed by terrorism. Shipping is one of Ireland's largest tertiary activities and we enjoy some of the best fishing in the world. It is natural, therefore, that the measures to protect this resource are implemented.

By endorsing the Maritime Security Bill, we are offering reassurance to those who trawl our waters that we will not tolerate terrorism of any kind and that we intend to use international networks to prevent such actions. This is extremely important in terms of international shipping and shows that Ireland, while holding the EU Presidency, is keen to contribute to the promotion of safer and more secure shipping in European waters. Following implementation of the Bill, we must continue to be vigilant in the operation of shipping and our ports and continue to be aware of the potential dangers to shipping from acts of terrorism which may arise in port, at offshore terminals or at sea. We must continue to put in place the necessary legislative, administrative and operational provisions to ensure Ireland is not seen as an easy target.

The European Council declaration on terrorism was published last Thursday. It is a commitment by all EU member states to improve the implementation of commitments already undertaken following the terrorist attacks in New York and Madrid. Significant progress on the completion of the ratification of all 12 UN conventions on terrorism, including the 1988 maritime convention and protocol to which the Maritime Security Bill gives effect, is now expected because of this declaration.

I congratulate the Minister on this timely and necessary legislation. Given our Presidency of the European Union, it demonstrates Ireland's willingness to develop a long-term counter-terrorist strategy in line with the wider international community. I support the Bill and commend it to the House.

I thank Senators for their contributions and support for the Bill and their agreement to have all Stages passed as quickly as possible.

The delay in the legislation was mentioned by a number of speakers and it is true it did not appear necessary to Governments since 1988 to give effect to the UN maritime convention and protocol which would have priority over other legislation. While there were terrorist incidents involving cruise liners and other ships since 1988, there was little, if any, international pressure for UN member states to give effect to the 1988 convention. The 11 September attacks and the Madrid bombings, however, have changed that and the UN Security Council passed a resolution on 28 September 2001 to urge all member states that had not done so to become party to the 1988 convention and protocol and to ten other instruments. Legislative priorities, however, delayed until now the drafting and initiation in Seanad Éireann of the Maritime Security Bill 2004 to give effect to the 1988 convention and protocol. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is also dealing with four of the other international instruments.

Maritime security measures for ports and ships will be in force from 1 July throughout and beyond the EU. The necessary preparations in Ireland are already well advanced and are being co-ordinated by the maritime safety directorate in my Department to ensure the deadline is met. I expect all Irish ports and ships to meet the new security arrangements so they will be able to continue to trade normally after 1 July.

The maritime safety directorate in the Department is currently involved in the process of co-ordinating the implementation of these new security measures. It is engaging with the relevant ship owners, ports and port facilities affected by the EU regulation and the ISPS code so that they will all be compliant by the 1 July deadline and able to trade normally. Two working groups have been established to achieve this, a multidisciplinary project team with representation from the Naval Service, the Garda Síochána and the maritime safety directorate, and an interdepartmental implementation committee, chaired by the Director General, Mr. Maurice Mullen, with representatives from my Department, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Transport, the Department of Defence, the Revenue Commissioners, the Naval Service and the Garda Síochána.

All the ports have submitted port facility security assessments setting out the current position of facilities regarding assets and vulnerabilities and project teams are verifying them. Assessments have been approved in Drogheda port, which has six individual port facilities, and in individual port facilities in Youghal, Sligo, Kenmare, New Ross, Arklow, Wicklow, Greenore and Killybegs. Further port facilities will be approved in the coming days, including Galway and Dundalk, and all of the remaining ports will be approved within the next two weeks. The large ports, Waterford, Cork and Dublin, will be fully compliant by 1 July.

A deadline of 30 April has been set for submission of port facility security plans to the Department and these plans will set out procedures to be taken by port facilities during normal working conditions and in the event of a terrorist threat. Under the new requirements, each ship must have on board a ship security plan approved by the administration and 90% of Irish vessels have submitted ship security assessments and plan verifications will start in mid-April.

Any non-compliant port facility will find it difficult to continue trading as most ships will refuse to deal with it. Similarly, non-compliant ships will be refused access to ports and port facilities after 1 July.

Other measures are being considered by the EU Commission, such as a proposal for a directive prescribing additional security measures for ports and surrounding areas and it is also proposed to amend the 1988 maritime convention and protocol, to which the Maritime Security Bill gives effect, to create additional offences relating to illegal carriage, use of weapons and explosives and, controversially, to provide extensive powers for states to stop, board and search ships on the high seas suspected of carrying such materials. Many areas of ship and port security are being considered.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, is dealing with issues arising from Sellafield, an area which is primarily his responsibility, and I will pass Senator Finucane's concerns and fears on to him.

I assure the House that officials of my Department will continue to work on a pro-active basis with their counterparts in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Defence, the Garda Síochána, the industries concerned, their counterparts in the International Maritime Organisation of the UN and in other international fora to address maritime security issues and the concerns raised by Senators today, and to secure the timely updating of laws that may be required as we meet national, EU and other international needs.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 6 April 2004.
Sitting suspended at 2.15 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.