Maritime Safety Bill 2004: Second Stage.

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

Molaim an Bille seo don Teach seo. I commend the Maritime Safety Bill 2004 to the House.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to enhance public safety and amenity and protect natural and other heritage areas by strengthening the law against the improper use, in the waters off the coast and in lakes and rivers, of certain fast powered watercraft such as jet skis and speedboats. Tourism and leisure businesses will also benefit from the prevention of danger, damage and nuisance by such craft.

Part 2 is the essential core of the Bill. It confers clear by-law making powers to regulate and control the operation of craft of the types in question on the following authorities: county councils and city councils in respect of waters generally, except waters under the control or management of Waterways Ireland or under the jurisdiction of other statutory authorities, namely, harbour companies within the meaning of the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000 or the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in so far as it concerns the five fishery harbour centres — Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Rossaveel and Killybegs — and other harbours under the control or management of the Minister; and larnród Éireann in relation to Rosslare Harbour and any other harbour under its control or management.

Fines of up to €2,000 on summary conviction for offences under the by-laws are provided for in the Bill, as well as fixed payment notices or on-the-spot fines. Provision is made for the seizure, detention and forfeiture of craft involved in offences and for disqualification of serious offenders from operating craft of the types in question in the interest of public safety etc. Section 14 provides for the appointment of authorised persons by the Minister, county and city councils and harbour companies to enforce the Bill. The Garda Síochána will also play a key role in enforcement.

Part 3 of the Bill updates penalty provisions in the Fishery Harbour Centres Act 1968, the Harbours Act 1996, which includes a provision for fixed payment notices or on-the-spot fines, and the Merchant Shipping Act 1992. There is consistency with the penalty provisions in Part 2 of the Bill to deter a range of activities which are inimical to the proper operation of the harbours concerned and to other users.

Section 17 of the Bill consequentially repeals section 33 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992, as amended, with regard to which legal issues arose as to the powers to regulate and control the operation of craft of the types in question. The Bill addresses the legal issues which arose as to the powers of county and city councils, clearly needed in the public interest, to make by-laws as regards the extensive waters off the coast and lakes and rivers used by the public, which are not directly under their control or management. The Bill also fills a gap in the law to protect natural heritage areas and underwater archaeological heritage against damage or interference by such craft.

A detailed explanatory and financial memorandum has been published with the Bill for the benefit of interested parties. I will be glad to provide any further clarification or information needed. The exclusion from the provisions of the Bill of waters controlled and managed by Waterways Ireland reflects the cross-Border nature of that body and the structures in place between the two jurisdictions under the North-South Ministerial Council. Waterways Ireland has powers under its legislation, notably the Canals Act 1986 and the Shannon Navigation Act 1990, to regulate and control navigation in waters under its control in the State.

The wide-ranging new powers contained in the Bill, when enacted, will complement other recent initiatives taken by the Minister and his Department. These include the new national regulations governing jet skis and other pleasure craft, which came into operation on 3 June 2004, the recently published — for consultation — code of practice for the safe operation of recreational craft and the proposed establishment of a small vessel register.

The new Merchant Shipping (Pleasure Craft) (Lifejackets and Operation) (Safety) Regulations 2004 contain national provisions relating to age restrictions, the carriage and wearing of lifejackets and restrictions on the use of alcohol and drugs. They apply to all types of pleasure craft irrespective of their means of propulsion and replaced the 2001 regulations, which applied to only mechanically propelled pleasure craft.

The wearing of lifejackets is an essential element in staying safe on the water. For the first time, the regulations make it compulsory for all children up to the age of 16 years to wear a lifejacket while on board a pleasure craft. The public generally and parents in particular should take responsibility for safety by wearing lifejackets and encouraging others to do so and by taking other sensible precautions while on the water, especially as the holiday season is now taking off. I also draw the attention of the House and the public generally to the water safety website,, which gives important information on safety for various types of watersports.

The aim of the proposed code of practice for recreational craft is to support the statutory provisions relating to recreational craft, in addition to advising on recommended best practice regarding the safe operation of such craft in Irish waters, whether for competitive or non-competitive purposes. All interested persons are invited to participate in this important public safety exercise and to forward comments to the Department before the closing date, 15 September 2004. The draft code as well as the new regulations may be accessed on the Department's website,

The Bill, as I outlined, contains an important suite of measures to enhance public safety and enjoyment in Irish waters and to protect important heritage against damage and interference. I hope the Bill will have the desired effect of quickly stamping out bad behaviour by certain users of fast powered watercraft, which is posing an unacceptable risk to the public, property and wildlife. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators and progressing the Bill into law at the earliest opportunity.

I welcome the legislation. I remember speaking in the other House, over four years ago, about the merchant shipping Bill, when it was incorporated, part of which related to jet skis. At that time local authorities were seen to be involved. I expressed reservations then as to how the legislation would be enforced. I still have reservations as regards enforcement although I know some local authorities, including the Minister of State's in Wexford, took a decision to ban jet skis from many of their beaches. That is something to which many places will probably resort. Jet skis are expensive to buy. They are glorified motor bikes which can travel on water at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. While people under 16 years of age are banned from using them a difficulty arises in that users are not required to undergo any type of prescribed safety training. There are various organisations which provide such training and those who purchase jet skis usually people in the 18 to 30 age bracket, should have to undertake safety training before using them. People who drive motorbikes and cars are required to undertake training. It is regrettable that we tend to focus on such issues when tragedy strikes. There was a sad tragedy in Youghal last year when a 15 year old boy died following an accident between his jet ski and a power-boat.

Enforcement of this legislation will rest with the Garda Síochána. However, the Garda is deployed in other activities and may not have the time to police it. Reference was also made to possible involvement by the Irish Coastguard Service. That may be the best body to police the legislation given its involvement in activities around the coast and the fact that many of its members act in a voluntary capacity. The level of tragedy in America involving jet skis, where the boom has continued for some time, is approximately eight times that experienced by European countries. There is a great deal of concern about their use.

The Minister of State mentioned a €2,000 fine and seizure in certain cases for breaches of the legislation. Anyone who has visited the Continent will know the use of jet skis is restricted to certain areas away from beaches. The noise of a jet ski which sounds like a lone lawnmower winding up with the noise escalating out of all proportion, can disturb the tranquillity of a beach on a calm evening. They also cause a great deal of fear among people. I accept the Minister is trying to introduce controls in this area, which is an important first step in dealing with the issue.

There has been a great deal of comment about safety training for people taking out yachts, power-boats and other vessels. It should be incumbent on the suppliers of these machines, usually to those in the 18 to 30 year old bracket, to insist on safety training courses for those operating them. If we started from that basis then those operating such equipment would behave more responsibly. The use of jet skis in Ireland is not a widespread phenomenon. However, given the affluent society in which we now live many people can afford to purchase jet skis or nautical motorbikes, as I have referred to them on previous occasions.

While I welcome the introduction of the legislation I am concerned about its enforcement following enactment. I am also concerned about Garda involvement given deployment in other activities. It is probable that the tourism industry will seek to ban the use of jet skis on our beaches. Such a ban is necessary given that many young people use the beaches. Many holiday destinations abroad have zoned particular areas for the use of jet skis. While they are located away from beaches one often encounters the macho man with high testosterone levels speeding up towards them. The noise of these vehicles disturb the tranquillity of our seaside. I suggest that if they are not banned completely they should be restricted to areas not used by swimmers and so on. I am extremely concerned about their use in any area. I would be happier if the Minister of State recommended in the legislation that suitable safety training be introduced for those wishing to use these craft. Currently, a person can purchase a jet ski with the minimum amount of safety training in terms of the use and power of the craft and can then take it out on the water.

The legislation is a step in the right direction. Local authorities will act responsibly in this matter and will, in many cases, ban the use of jet skis from beaches. That may have to happen. One has sometimes to be cruel to be kind. If they are to be used, they should be used in controlled areas.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and wholeheartedly welcome the Bill. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is to be congratulated on bringing forward this legislation which represents a decent effort to curb activities of mechanically propelled watercraft and which will regulate an element of our leisure sector which needs to be brought into line with modern thinking and living.

This problem has grown over the years in part because people are looking for more adventure in their leisure time, have extra leisure time to spend and have the resources to purchase and maintain expensive craft of a wide variety of designs, from speedboats to personal watercraft, better known as jet skis. Everybody is entitled to do that but this sector must be regulated in the interests of safety and for the enjoyment of the majority given the many incidents, some fatal, in the recent past. I am not enthusiastic about regulating every element of our lives but where health and safety is concerned, where the environment is at risk and where people feel they can do what they like without regard for others, we have not only a right but also a duty to step in and make rules.

While they will come within the scope of the Bill, I am not sure that those families, angling friends or boating enthusiasts, who set out regularly in the summer for a few hours mackerel fishing or exploring otherwise inaccessible parts of our coast, will have anything to fear from this measure. Anyone who currently uses common sense and has regard for the safety and enjoyment of others will have no difficulty in complying with the provisions of the Bill and the regulations and by-laws which will emanate from it.

The time is long overdue when a discipline which has not emerged naturally must be imposed on the use of fast, mechanically propelled craft. The sooner this legislation is put on the Statute Book the better. There are far too many people abusing our leisure waters. I will not point the finger at young or old, male or female, because this malady goes right across the board. A high percentage of people who operate these jet skis do so with little regard for others. Some put people's safety at risk with their high-powered demonstrations of macho skill while most impinge on people's enjoyment of the beach or riverside with their incessant noise.

There is very little to recommend these machines in the close quarters in which they are often used and nothing to recommend them when they put at risk people's lives by near criminal behaviour. I hasten to add that those who engage in such activities are few enough, but in the context of general water users, they represent a reasonable percentage.

Perhaps the one vessel, which causes people most problems is the so-called jet ski or personal watercraft. Surprisingly, it dates from as far back as 1973 so regulation of its use is not before time. An increasing number of authorities around the world are meeting the growing danger and annoyance of these craft and have introduced stringent by-laws to regulate their use. Others have taken the more drastic step of banning their use in their jurisdictions, though I would not advocate such radical measures here.

One town on America's west coast, which some might call the home of water sports, came to following conclusion:

The ban is integral to the protection of the coast from the pollution and noise from personal watercraft. Sailors, windsurfers, bird watchers and wildlife will be grateful for this decision in years to come.

America is not the only country to find these craft to be intrusive. A constituent of mine who lives in a house overlooking a beach recently told me it was sometimes like having a motor-cross race in one's front garden.

When I initially read the Bill, I wondered about the size of the recreational craft covered by its provisions, between 2.5 m and 24 m. I assume vessels above this size are already subject to regulation under other legislation. I am concerned that we should also cover craft under the 2.5 m limit. Personal watercraft may well continue to diminish in size, just like scooters and Segways, which are self-balancing, self-propelled scooters for the street that are no bigger than the space in which we stand up. I note that the definition of personal watercraft in the Bill relates to craft that are under 4 m. As advances in technology usually reduce the size of things, I envisage that recreational watercraft will soon be below the 2.5 m mark. I hope account can be taken of the likelihood of further miniaturisation of craft. I ask the Minister of State to clarify this area and to re-examine the definitions of craft and their sizes.

It is natural that by-laws will have to comply with the provisions of the Act. By-laws can be made to specify the areas in which such craft cannot be used, the speed that is allowed in defined areas and the times of the day when they can be operated. If one looks around any harbour, one will see as many single and twin-masted yachts as there were mirror dinghies and lasers a generation ago. When I was young, it was rare to see a water-skier in a harbour or off a beach. It entertained us for an hour or two, but that time is long gone. Water-skiers, towed by a variety of methods from speedboats to parachutes, are a regular feature of resorts and bathing places.

Personal watercraft are a relatively recent but immensely popular addition to summertime leisure activities. Such craft have made it possible for people from all walks of life to enjoy fast-paced recreation on the open water without the encumbrance or expense of a full-sized boat. They were first developed in 1973 and have kept pace with improvements in technology, increases in demand and the greater availability of resources with which to acquire them. They have got larger and more powerful with each succeeding model, increasing from 400 cubic centimetres to three times that power today. Their popularity grew rapidly until they became the largest-selling watercraft in the world. In America alone their number is growing by an estimated 100,000 each year and a proportional increase can be detected in this country too.

Although wave-runners, jet skis and other personal watercraft are relatively new to our waters, experts have told us they have caused substantial damage to nature, wildlife and the environment. Such machines endanger and disturb wildlife with their high speeds, unpredictable movements and excessive noise. Most of them are powered by highly polluting two-stroke engines, which release up to 30% of their fuel and oil mixture directly into air and water. Their high power-to-weight ratio, coupled with the fact that the personal watercraft industry advertises them as machines built for speed and manoeuvrability, demonstrates that such craft are thrill craft rather than a legitimate form of water transportation. The machines range from 800 cubic centimetres for one-passenger craft, to 1,200 cu. cm. for three-person craft. The larger craft carry a fuel capacity of 15.3 gallons, which is more than one's average saloon car. Its promotional advertising states:

The 150 model has been a machine that defies simple explanation. At its best, it's a pint-sized rocketship, able to reach the upper echelons of the radar scale and slice a buoy to ribbons with surgeon-like expertise.

If that is how they are marketed, that is how they will be encouraged to be used. We need to disabuse people of such notions by one means or another. Legislation is the best curb.

Given that we do not allow indiscriminate car racing along our roads and crowded streets, I do not understand why people feel free to use the crowded waters off popular beaches for the reckless use of personal watercraft with impunity. We insist that new drivers of cars and motorbikes should take lessons and a stringent test before they take what can be a lethal weapon onto the roads. No such requirement exists for water-based craft with the same potential, however. Jet skis and powerful motorboats have the potential to be lethal in the same way as motorbikes and cars. People need to have been on a training course to learn how to use the craft properly. They should ensure they have the right equipment, such as buoyancy aids and wet suits. It is important that they should know what to do if they get into difficulties. I do not want to go too far down the road of the nanny state, but if such regulations are needed in respect of road vehicles, they should also apply to watercraft.

The machines about which I have spoken are fundamentally different from traditional boats. The American coastguard has given personal watercraft manufacturers a waiver so that the craft do not have to comply with the basic safety features required on other boats. This suggests that the craft are not boats in the conventional sense, used as a legitimate means of water-based transport. All water users should be treated the same in regard to safety. Identical requirements should apply to speedy craft and what I loosely describe as family Sunday afternoon boats. The US national park service has adopted a rule that permanently prohibits the use of personal watercraft in 66 parks. Five other parks adopted permanent bans in the spring of 2002. When allowing their use, authorities in the US must develop environmental assessments and special regulations to open their waters to personal watercraft use.

A welcome provision of the Bill is that local authorities can draw up by-laws to cover their functional areas. The imposition of blanket restrictions would not take into account local conditions and the differing topography of the coast. An area that is 30 m offshore might have a depth of several metres. In other coves and beaches, however, one can wade out a couple of hundred metres without being out of one's depth.

I welcome this measure from a political and functional point of view. There is a perception that powers are constantly being taken away from local authorities. We must promote local democracy where we can and be seen to do so. That is not to say there could not and should not be consistency between local authorities where possible. We should standardise when it is appropriate.

The Bill will draw ready support among the public, many of whom are tired of having their Sunday afternoons and holidays ruined by the incessant noise and disruption of fast craft in their bathing waters. They have to be constantly on the alert not only for the usual dangers to young bathers, but also for the imminent arrival of jet skis. In the words of the promotion I quoted earlier, such craft can "slice a buoy to ribbons with surgeon-like expertise".

Many other dangers have to be catered for in the course of a water-based holiday, or a day at the seaside. That accidents happen far too frequently was borne out in my home county in the past week, when three young men lost their lives in the waters off the coast. I extend my sympathy to the families involved. The grief caused by the passing of the men is felt by many more families than the three immediately concerned. Their deaths underline again the inherent dangers of water-based activities and how easily a light-hearted swim can go fatally wrong. Anything we can do to promote water safety, to highlight the dangers involved or, like in this Bill, to try to eliminate the reckless use of dangerous craft must be pursued. I do not hesitate in commending the Bill to the House. I know it will receive universal support.

I welcome the Minister of State. I welcome the legislation, which is needed. I do not have the slightest difficulty in supporting it because it is sensible.

I have a certain difficulty with the tone of the speeches so far in this debate. It is easy to be prissy and nannyish about such matters. I have been bothered by jet skis and power boats in places as far apart as Dingle, Dromineer and Kinsale. I know regulations are necessary. It is great to see people on the water. It is to be expected that young people, who tend to be the main users of jet skis, will act like young people. The Bill is welcome because we do not have regulations. Although we passed a law some years ago giving local authorities certain powers, this legislation makes further advances. It is welcome and necessary.

If one is having a glass of wine or a cup of coffee in one's boat at the marina in Athlone, there is nothing as bad as being disturbed by some youngster scooting along in a jet ski, creating enough of a wave to turn over half the boats in the harbour. It is extremely annoying, particularly for people on beaches and on lakes along the River Shannon, where one sees a great deal of this behaviour. One can easily engage in such activities in other places. If one travels a short distance from Athlone to the hotel at Hodson Bay, one will find a protected harbour from which boats can be launched. Jet skis can operate away from the harbour without interfering with craft in the harbour. We need to examine such areas and to apply the rules in a sensible manner.

I would hate to introduce regulations that would prevent people from going on the water. When I was younger and fitter, I skied and engaged in sub-aqua diving. We had fast boats, which we called RIBs, with big engines hanging out the back. I am sure we bothered people and I am sure we were wrong to do so. It is time to regulate this area.

It is great to see people on the water pursuing healthy activities, whether sailing or using jet skis. The Bill is very measured. I do not have any difficulty with it giving this power but I ask the Minister to keep a close eye on it.

I want to raise a number of points about issues that are not included in the Bill. There is much reference to people found in contravention of the regulation or by-laws. That raises one issue for me in particular, namely, the registration of craft. There should be a number on every jet ski, pleasure boat and RIB to make them identifiable and allow them to be registered. If the Minister has time he might go through the stages of registering a boat in his Department and see if he can do that without going bonkers because of the weight of regulations.

I am not an expert in this area. I have not registered my boats because I have been warned off doing so by people, but when I have taken my boat abroad and I am asked for my papers, I give them a set of papers I made up. They are not illegal. They look official. I have a number on them and so on and I just hand them to the harbour authorities. I talked to a friend who registered a boat through the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and it was torture. The problem is that all craft — I am not blaming the Department, it is just the current regulation — are treated the same but there should be an easier system of registration for pleasure craft. All it would take is for somebody to say that every properly built boat will have a hull number, which will normally be given by Lloyds if it is any type of decent craft, and a manufacturer's number to make it identifiable. Every boat in Germany has a number on it and they are all licensed. One often sees boats in Irish harbours or at sea which are numbered but they have been bought abroad. I ask that the Minister take my suggestions on board.

The Minister has given authority to various people and in one part of the Bill there is reference to the coastguard. I want to refer to the importance of the coastguard. We all grew up along the coast and we recognise the importance of the coastguard. In many ways the coastguard could now become responsible for marine safety, although not for implementing the Bill. Who will implement the law on life jackets, which I welcome? Who will implement these by-laws? The Minister has given authority to certain people to be the nominated persons, which is wise and necessary, but the job of the coastguard has always been to save lives and protect people. It now appears it might have a role to play in warning people they are breaking the rules as regards personal water craft, life jackets or whatever.

Where does the Minister place the coastguard in his scale of reference? They are a group of people who have much to offer. There are two categories involved. There are the full-time, permanent members of the coastguard, but there are also the other people along the coastline. I know the people in Dingle, who provide an invaluable service. We should use their expertise, allow them be part of an advisory structure and have an input into the policy of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in order to develop these areas. I would also like them to have some input to decision making. They are an extraordinary resource but they should have access to State provided training to upgrade their equipment and be brought up to date with the latest methods from various parts of the globe.

There is probably a need for some financial support for people in the voluntary area of the coastguard. As Tom McSweeney tells us every week, we are an island nation and in that sense we depend on these people. I ask the Minister to consider, in particular, the coastguard whose members should be properly recognised and given a status.

I am not sure if it is the coastguard, which operates the coastal radios. I am often on the radio to them but if I am on to Valentia, I do not know whether it is the coastguard in Valentia, the weather station or something else I am talking to. If one is speaking to the coastguard in the United Kingdom or other countries, one will always be asked for a call sign or number.

That raises another issue in terms of operating boats and it is one that comes up all the time. Must people in charge of craft have a radio licence? I believe the law states that they do. I have done navigation courses over the years, although I have to say I was using boats for many years before I bothered doing navigation or handling courses. It was more a case of seeing how the theory worked in with the practice apart from anything else.

This Bill reflects a cultural change in our attitude towards the water. It is as important as equal pay legislation or the Equality Act 1997. It is a wake-up call, although it is important not to put too many restraints on people. I want to see more people enjoying the water, especially children, although I realise we have to tell them to slow down, not to make too much noise because it is Sunday afternoon or go a half mile offshore before they engage in some sporting activity. That is fine. Even if it annoys us it is better to see people doing that than many other activities they could pursue. We talked this morning about alcohol and last week the issue of smoking was raised. This is a healthy outdoor activity, even if it is irritating, noisy and troublesome. We need to get the balance right and we all share that view.

When one considers the horrific accident in Cork Harbour last year in which somebody died, we realise these activities are about people acting sensibly. Most accidents at sea happen because people do not have due respect for the sea, the weather or their equipment. There is nothing as worrying as to see some guy from Dublin in Dingle who has just bought a big boat, with large engines, which he intends to sail back to Dublin that night despite the fact that a small craft warning has been issued. He will take on those waves and not worry about a force 7 gale whereas people born beside the sea will go for a pint and wait for the weather to settle down. I would hope to see people in charge of craft having to address these issues and at least be aware of their sense of responsibility.

I welcome the legislation, which represents an appropriate balance, because we can get things done in the implementation of it. For example, the RNLI and some other groups produce checklists. One can get a safety checklist from the RNLI or from the Irish yachting association. It would be appropriate for the Department to circularise those — perhaps it does that already. However, it does not have a list of every boat, boat owner or registration information. That is where it must start. I wish the Bill well.

I, too, join previous speakers in welcoming the Minister to the House and welcoming this legislation. I have an interest in this issue. In January of this year I wrote to the Secretary General of the Department regarding my concerns about safety on water, particularly in the area of powerboats. I am pleased that the response to my letter may be in the form of a Bill, considering that I did not get an official response. I am hoping this Bill is my reply. If it is, I am very happy with it.

I also echo the phrase coined by Tom McSweeney that we are an island nation. Indeed we are, and there is an enormous onus and responsibility on us to ensure that we have proper legislation and that we achieve a right balance between safety and regulation in the use of our waterways. Many of the fishermen who harvested the seas around our coast were unable to swim but they had their own in-built safety mechanisms.

In recent years there has been a huge increase in the use of pleasure craft and, like Senator O'Toole, I declare that I own a pleasure craft, a powerboat, which I operate off the west coast. I have observed an increase in this activity, some of which is quite disturbing and needs to be regulated. I compliment the voluntary contribution of those providing lifeboats and coastguards that marshal and police our waters in the interests of safety.

Hear, hear.

From the State's perspective a huge debt of gratitude is owed to those who do this voluntary work.

I am concerned the legislation does not go far enough. A balance must be struck between over-regulation and making the waters available for everyone's use. Unfortunately, a degree of irresponsibility on our waters is evident, particularly during the summer months, with persons with little or no experience operating high-powered engines on the backs of speedboats and RIBs. One positive provision contained in the Bill is that authorised persons, mainly harbour masters, will now speak with greater authority as it will be passed down via harbour boards and commissions. Up to now, when a harbour master attempted to stop and correct an individual's improper use of a boat in a harbour area, the boat operator more or less gave them the two fingers. With this legislation, the harbour masters are empowered to deal with this. This is a welcome development as many harbour masters are experienced with great knowledge of the competent and incompetent users of their waterways.

Senator O'Toole raised the registration of boats and I agree that all boats operating above ten horsepower should carry a licence. I am being reasonable by choosing ten horsepower as a threshold. Following Senator O'Toole's suggestion of hull registration, there should be a decal type number visible from ten metres. A system of traceability is necessary to prevent people operating illegally and improperly on our waters.

A 200 horsepower engine on the back of a six metre RIB can be given as a birthday present to a 17 year old child. I am concerned that the child is then entitled to operate that boat on the water without any form of training or experience. Should further restrictions be advocated? Should the operation of a powerboat with a certain size engine be only allowed to those who hold a powerboat certificate or licence? The master of the craft is ultimately responsible. Obviously, introducing such legislation would unfairly impose on those who have operated on the waters over the years. I have taken safety courses conducted by the Irish Sailing Association. Though I had a fair amount of experience on the water, I learned much during the courses, even if it was correcting bad habits.

It may be time for those authorised officers, as defined in the Bill, to be given the authority to issue licences to people known by them who have operated boats for years. Thereafter, when a new boat with a 250 horsepower engine arrives with two 17 year olds, the harbour master can insist on an operating licence and all necessary courses to have been completed. I am not advocating that the legislation be immediately changed toinclude this provision because I am conscious of over-regulating a predominantly leisure activity. However, we have a responsibility to protect and safeguard those who are operating for leisure and social facilities from cowboys and cowgirls.


I welcome the Bill as it corrects inadequacies that existed. More consideration needs to be given to the responsibility of those authorised in ensuring water safety. Should third party and comprehensive insurance be linked for those who have a national powerboat and safety certificates? Should such certificates and age restrictions be linked to horsepower usage?

These issues will be the next phase for legislation in this area. General consultations should take place in conjunction with the coastguards, lifeboats and authorised persons, such as harbour masters, to continually review this legislation. We must legislate in the interests of safety for all. It can be made a safe sport and leisure activity with a commonsense approach to safety and balanced regulation. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy John Browne, and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources for moving in that direction. I hope he will take on board some of my points regarding future legislation.

I welcome the Minister of State and this necessary legislation which was a long time coming. Several years ago, residents and users of the marina in Terryglass, a small and scenic village, a regular winner of the Tidy Towns Competition and an attractive destination in the summer months, complained to me about groups of jet skiers on the lake. It would not have been an issue if the jet skiers had gone out into the lake. However, they were used too close to the lake's edge and caused a considerable degree of noise, disruption and disorder in the area. Under no circumstances would the jet skiers listen to the pleas of the residents and visitors for some calm and peace. The area was rendered unusable for the quiet leisure craft. Subsequently, it was learned in discussions with the county council that there was little it could do to enforce regulations because legislation was required. In that context, this Bill is to be welcomed and I hope local authorities fully implement it.

Most of this activity takes place in the evenings or at weekends, including bank holiday weekends. It will mean that a local authority must have an officer assigned to places like Dromineer, Terryglass and Garykennedy in north Tipperary on Lough Derg to ensure that the regulations are upheld. Will the local authority act only on a complaint, for instance? By-laws must be discussed at strategic policy committee level before being accepted by the local authority so there will have to be a level of understanding and public consultation and awareness. I hope that will ensure the smooth operation of the Act and also that the public will be fully informed and will co-operate with the local authority or whichever body is involved in ensuring that the by-laws work in practice. The issue of the implementation of the Act arises there but in principle the regulation is necessary.

I agree with much of what Senator Minihan and others said about safety regarding these craft and specifically jet skis. We may need to consider issuing safety certificates to users. It is worrying that people can simply buy jet skis and go out on the water. We do not want to ban jet skis, nor does this legislation, but there is much to be said for designating parts of beaches or lakeshores specifically for jet ski use. Users should not be allowed near the shore, near where children are playing or near where people are using other pleasure craft in a quiet manner. Jet ski users should not be allowed create disturbance to other people. On one visit abroad I noted that jet ski usage was allowed only after 7.30 p.m. There is something to be said for that because most people would have left the beach at such a time.

The legislation is welcome. I commend the Minister and his officials for bringing it forward. The Minister of State said in his address that Waterways Ireland was excluded from the legislation but had its own codes and powers under other legislation. Can he assure me that Waterways Ireland will have the same level of control and authority available to it as he is giving to bodies under this Act? One would not want a difference in approach, or in authority and power, between local authorities and harbours on one hand, and Waterways Ireland on the other. The issue under discussion may not be so important for Waterways Ireland.

I look forward to seeing the legislation enacted. Presumably it will not be implemented for this season, since by-laws have to be passed, but I encourage the Minister and his Department to ensure that the local authorities and bodies who will have a role under the Act will implement the legislation as soon as possible.

Tá fáilte roimh an tAire Stáit go dtí an Teach. I welcome this Bill, in which I have long been interested. I have raised it on the Order on Business on a number of occasions and I also raised it on the Adjournment to which the Minister of State responded. I thank him for giving the time to meet two deputations, which I brought here to talk to him about the measure before us. It is a proactive measure in the interests of public safety, and not a killjoy measure, which is how it was described by those with a vested interest. It is designed to ensure that the safety of all water users, whether they be swimmers, anglers, boat or jet ski users, be protected. Regrettably, the measure is necessary because a small number of people who operate jet skis and ski boats do not have due regard for the rights of other users of our waterways. They insist on their right to use our waterways but conveniently forget their obligations.

Coming from County Westmeath, the Bill has special relevance for me. It is not a maritime country but is known to all as the lake county. We may not have a coastline but lakes are Westmeath's greatest asset, with fishing, cruising, water sports and shore amenities. There is a wealth of trout and coarse angling on the Westmeath lakes of Ennell, Owel, Derravaragh, Sheelin, Lane, Lough Ree, the River Shannon and the Royal Canal. Derravaragh is the source of the well known legend of the Children of Lir but we will not go into mythology today. Those who visit Westmeath can travel the scenic routes, the picturesque villages, Goldsmith country and the Fore and Belvedere trails, and find much more in the county.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to improve public safety and safeguard nature and heritage areas by enforcing the law against the unacceptable use in coastal waters, lakes and rivers of certain powered water craft such as jet skis and ski boats. This will be of benefit not just to individuals. Tourism and leisure enterprises will also gain from getting rid of the risk, harm and trouble caused by such craft. I totally reject the arguments put forward that the restriction of their use will harm tourism.

Incidents involving jet skis or high powered craft have generated increasing amounts of publicity in recent times. As Senator Kenneally noted, the jet ski or personal watercraft is essentially an aquatic motor cycle invented in 1973 by the motor cycle manufacturer Kawasaki. The use of these craft has become increasingly popular and there have been numerous reports of jet ski related injuries around the world.

No one can deny that for some time there has been a dangerous mis-use of jet skis in our harbours, bays and lakes. It defies logic that anyone can buy a jet ski and then travel at any speed on a lake with no regard for other lake users. If one buys a motor cycle, car, lorry, truck, aeroplane or helicopter one must undergo training in order to qualify for a licence, and one must have a licence plate. There is no comparable arrangement for certain power craft. I commend the Minister on the proposal that all mechanically propelled water craft must be registered with the local authority and have a licence plate. I also welcome the proposal to include county and city councils under this law. They will have a pivotal role to play and I hope they will be given the resources to carry out the functions, which the Minister proposes handing over to them.

Jet skis, can be used by people with no experience, licence or insurance. Local authorities have the power under by-laws to control their usage but they are failing to do so countrywide. Without enforcement, horrific accidents are waiting to happen, and unfortunately some have already happened. I understand that some terrible injuries have been reported over the last decade across Europe and beyond. The use of crash helmets is not mandatory despite a report of traumatic brain injury in 54% of those injured in jet ski accidents. Unlike motorcyclists, why are people who use these type of craft not obliged to use crash helmets? Some local authorities have enacted by-laws restricting their use to specific areas to minimise the nuisance to others. I recall making a proposal to that effect in Westmeath County Council, but it was not accepted because the area concerned did not have the public attention the people involved wanted. These people went to a place which was widely used by anglers and swimmers and, as a consequence, many people had to desist from using the lake, which is not right.

Another menace posed by the "toys for boys or girls" element is a threat to the more traditional activities on these lakes, in particular, angling. The Minister of State will have heard at first hand what this involves. As was pointed out in the Westmeath Examiner in March 2003, only 12 wild brown trout fisheries remain in Europe, including Lough Owel, Lough Ennell and Lough Sheelin. Many claim that Lough Sheelin is gone and Lough Ennell is suffering as a result of jet skis and ski boats because, comparatively speaking, it is a very shallow lake. If the regulation of these craft is to benefit, other more sedentary aquatic pursuits, that, too, must be welcomed. The Bill will mandate clear powers to local authorities to make by-laws to regulate and control the operation of the type of craft in question.

I am not trying to pour cold water on a drowned rat, but I believe people who operate in a manner which is potentially dangerous to the public deserve the proposed fine of €2,000 on summary conviction for offences under the by-laws provided for in the Bill. Provision has also been made for the seizure, detention and forfeiture of craft involved in offences and, in the interest of public safety, disqualification of serious offenders from operating craft of this type will also be allowed.

I welcome the fact that the Garda Síochána will play a key role in enforcing the law. Laws have been enacted previously under the Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act 2001, which was introduced following the canoeing accident in 1995 off Dunmore East, County Waterford, when two young people lost their lives. As the Minister of State said, this legislation will complement recent measures put in place by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

This is a proactive measure and I believe its implementation and enforcement will save lives. I commend the Minister and the Department on bringing it forward.

I am pleased to contribute to the debate on this Bill and I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Browne, and his officials to the House. However, the Bill is not what I am seeking. The lakes of the Shannon are not included because they come under the North-South bodies. I understand why the Minister of State could not include these lakes because of the North-South body, of which I used to be a member. The exclusion from the provisions of the Bill of waters controlled and managed by Waterways Ireland reflects the cross-Border nature of that body and the structures in place between the two jurisdictions under the North-South Ministerial Council. Waterways Ireland has powers under its legislation, notably the Canals Act 1986 and the Shannon Navigation Act 1990, to regulate and control navigation in waters under its control in the State.

While I welcome the Bill, I need to know precisely what waters it covers. I am concerned that it does not cover the lakes of the Shannon, particularly the inner lakes of Lough Ree, on which there is huge bravado and showing off. There is something about getting on the water on skis, which sends the blood to a young man's head, and perhaps young women's heads. If these lakes are not covered, we should send out a message to Waterways Ireland that it should get its act together and copy what is being done in this Bill. There is no doubt this measure is needed because there is something about the open waters, skis, wind and speed which fires up people and causes offence. A friend of mine has a lovely boat on which we travelled one Sunday last summer. Two of these so-called offenders passed by us with huge gusto and, while one likes to see these people enjoying themselves, they, in turn, spoil the enjoyment of others.

I will not be here to hear the Minister of State's reply so perhaps he will reply to me in writing. Will this legislation affect the waters I traverse, including the Shannon, Lough Ree, the canal up to Ballinamore and the inner lakes of Lough Ree, Lough Derg and Lough Allen? This aspect will not be dealt with until someone in Waterways Ireland cocks their ear. As the Minister of State takes his duties very seriously, perhaps he will contact Waterways Ireland and point out that these issues were raised in the House and Senators from the areas concerned would like to see the same care extended to these waters as will be extended to other waters.

As the waters which will be covered are not named, I hope the Minister of State will list them in his reply and my colleagues, Senator O'Meara or Senator Daly, will let me know what waters will be affected. The waters Senator Glynn eulogised do not stand to be affected for the good. We need to know what the legislation covers. While it is a fine aspiration, I want to know what it covers, and how the waters, which are not covered can be dealt with under the Maritime Safety Bill.

I welcome Mr. Charlie McDonald to the Visitors Gallery.

I join in welcoming Mr. McDonald. I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for bringing this legislation before the House.

As he will be aware, jet skis are a menace in some areas, particularly in tourist resorts. Last year, a team arrived in Ballyheigue with jet skis on trailors. These people drove through swimmers, including women and children, with a total disregard for the safety of the people on the beaches and those living in the area. I welcome the legislation and express appreciation to the Minister of State who has taken the initiative in bringing the legislation before the House. I assure him of our full support in implementing it.

In that regard, I raise queries about the implementation aspect of the legislation. To date, there has been very little implementation of whatever regulation was put in place. People have been behaving in a dangerous and irresponsible manner on many beaches in isolated resorts in coastal regions. Some of these people travel long distances. Earlier this year, I saw a number of jet skis on an isolated beach in west Clare. I live in an area where there are miles of very safe and isolated beaches and where swimmers are suffering because of the activities of these people. Some of these people travelled a great distance from Kilkee to Dunbeg Bay and invaded areas where people, including children, were swimming. There was dangerous irresponsibility on the part of those using them. When I visited the location of this incident, I was asked by those suffering whether anything could be done to control jet skiers. However, I discovered it was a matter for the Garda, which is aware of its responsibilities in this area but has been limited in taking action except where a superintendent or garda had a particular interest. By and large, gardaí feel it is matter for the Naval Service despite the Naval Service not having a capacity to access most of the relevant areas without using its smaller vessels. In any case, by the time the Naval Service arrives, jet skiers could be miles away as they travel at very high speeds as well as acting irresponsibly and irrationally.

On occasion, there has been a risk of serious accidents involving jet skis colliding, and I have witnessed six machines together in one bay, zig-zagging and carrying out manoeuvres at high speeds. Onlookers have been horrified at the prospect of collisions and bodies being washed up on the shore. There have already been incidents where lives have been lost and a young man lost his life in the past two years in the home area of the Minister of State, Deputy Browne.

The law has not been clear on this issue until now and vigorous implementation of the legislation is required immediately passed by the Houses. In advance of the passage of the Bill, warning notices might be issued through the recognised channels to the different areas involved. The notices would designate those with responsibility, particularly inshore fisheries officers, and request them to be vigilant in detecting offenders and making them act in a reasonable and responsible way.

I do not want jet skis banned. It is possible to designate special areas where jet skiers can carry out their manoeuvres and high jinks and I have no problem with that. For example, several areas of the Shannon Estuary would not come under Shannon navigation rules and there would be little traffic and few people swimming or engaged in recreation. It would be simple for local authorities to designate certain areas where jet skiing could be carried out freely. Senator Finucane will be aware of areas close to Foynes where it is possible for this to happen without interfering with the leisure activities of other locals or the traffic to and from Foynes Harbour. It should be easy for jet skiers to operate without causing danger to themselves or others.

It is a matter not only for vigilance but enforcement. Many jet skiers feel they can quickly escape from one location to another. For example, jet skis in Kilkee Bay could be quickly driven to Doonbeg Bay, around Mutton Island and on to Spanish Point. It is open season for some jet skiers. I am surprised by some of those involved in this activity, who seem responsible in other matters but who have no sense of responsibility when they get on one of these machines. They drive them in an outrageous manner, putting the lives of others, especially children, at risk.

Previous speakers referred to the exclusion of Waterways Ireland from the Bill. This area needs to be legislated for and I have no hesitation in saying that Waterways Ireland would be irresponsible in its attitude if it did not comply with the intention of this legislation. Perhaps it might be necessary to amend the Bill to cover Waterways Ireland. I am sure the organisation has a clear knowledge and understanding of what has happened in these areas. It has overall responsibility for Shannon navigation and Northern waters, and I believe legislation in Northern Ireland covers this activity. If amendments must be made to the Bill in this regard, it should be done speedily. The exemption of Waterways Ireland should be removed from the Bill before it passes through the Houses.

This is useful legislation. Like other speakers, I do not agree with a total ban on jet skiing and believe it possible to designate areas where it can occur. However, it is neither responsible nor acceptable that those who engage in the activity can indiscriminately enter isolated coastal areas, and some not so isolated such as Ballyheigue, Lahinch or Kilkee where I have witnessed them, and behave in an irresponsible manner, putting others at risk. The message should go out loud and clear from the House that it is not acceptable.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Browne. Like Senator O'Rourke, I ask whether lakes in the west such as Lough Carra, Lough Corrib and Lough Mask are covered by the Bill. While I understand that local authorities have powers, do they only apply to coastal areas? This activity occurs in our lakes where people may be fishing, sunbathing and so forth, particularly during the summer.

While jet skiing is causing serious problems for those out to enjoy themselves, I do not wish to outlaw it. I agree with Senator Daly that areas should be designated for such activities, whether on the coast, lakes or otherwise. However, those going to the coast or lakes for other activities should know that jet skiing is allowed and that they will have to take precautions. Power-boating is a growing sport on the Continent, in the United States and world-wide, and is advertised on Sky Television and other media, and it is only natural that young people would be attracted to it. Therefore, it is important the Minister considers designating areas for this type of sport to take place, whether on the coast, lakes or otherwise. If provisions are made in this regard, those who visit waterside locations will know that this activity is taking place. Local authorities or other enforcing authorities will also be aware of it and can make special arrangements to highlight it. We must live with this activity and the Bill should reflect that. It is deficient in not doing so. Although I welcome the Bill we must have control over these matters because people's lives are at risk. The legislation should provide for all kinds of activities to take place.

The Minister of State explained that the Bill makes provisions in the areas of age restrictions, the carriage and wearing of life jackets and restrictions on the use of alcohol and drugs. I wonder how he intends to control the use of drugs and alcohol on boats. How will he implement this provision? Will there be a breathalyser test? How will he establish whether a person has taken an excessive amount of alcohol or drugs? Will this only apply to the person in control of the boat at the time, or will anybody who is on the boat when it is in breach of a regulation, for example, where there has been speeding, be subject to a fine if they have consumed an excessive amount of alcohol, even though they may not be causing problems?

The Minister should explain more clearly how the provisions dealing with the use of alcohol and drugs will be enforced and who will be liable to prosecution under the regulations resulting from the Bill. It is important that we know this. People who are on a boat for pleasure and have had a few cans of beer may, without realising it, be facing fines of €1,000 or €2,000.

I welcome the Bill. As Senator Daly said, it should fulfil our obligation to make provisions for water sport activities, if necessary by designating areas for these activities within local authority areas. We cannot outlaw that type of sport all over the country. Some provisions will have to be made.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, to the House and I welcome this important Bill, which is, if anything, overdue. There has been a problem with jet skis on inland waterways for a long time, particularly in the midland lakes. Deputy Paul McGrath, among others, was active several years ago in attempting to persuade local authorities to restrict these activities on lakes such as Lough Ennell, where they are a serious problem.

The difficulty is that there are conflicting interests. I declare an interest in that I am a trout fisherman and I fish on Lough Ennell, Lough Owel, Lough Derravaragh and other midland lakes. Unquestionably, jet skis and similar equipment are a cause of irritation and danger. Almost inevitably, it is young men who ride jet skis, as they are attracted by speed, and they seem to have a total disregard for other people. The waters in question are large enough to accommodate the various conflicting parties. There is enough room on Lough Ennell for game anglers and jet skis but they must be restricted to particular areas. That is only reasonable.

Apart from the question of safety, there is an environmental issue which might not have been highlighted in the past. Generally, the midland lakes are shallow and these craft, whether they be jet skis or power boats, disturb the bottom considerably. This has implications for the lakes' invertebrate life, which sustains the angling if not the fish themselves. I welcome the fact that there is now the possibility of controlling these sports.

In contrast, let us consider the way in which the sailing club on Lough Owel conducts its affairs. Its members confine themselves to a restricted area. These are quite small craft which travel at low speeds and do not do much damage. It has been the case for many years that the angling interests and sailing interests on Lough Ennell have lived side by side quite happily.

As for the great western lakes, Lough Corrib, Lough Mask, Lough Carra and Lough Conn, while it appears there is enough room for everybody because they are so much bigger than the midland lakes, the problem is that they are very dangerous. Winds blow up very quickly and there are reefs and shallows. One must know where one is going. It is not a question of putting out a boat, whether it be an angling boat, a jet ski or a power boat, and heading off willy-nilly. The Corrib is marked by navigation buoys and people who stay within the navigation channels can be quite safe. There is a large area of very deep water to the north of Inchagill island on Lough Corrib which is fished very little, except on the drop-off ledges for trout. This is a place where these craft could operate safely without affecting the local angling.

There is always the risk of accidents. On Lough Ennell, where jet skis and power boats travel at high speed, I have seen some come very close to drifting lake boats. It is a pity to have to say "I told you so" after an accident. It is reasonable that these measures should empower the local authorities to intervene and create a framework in which the various interests can be accommodated.

There is also the question of life jackets. I was one of those who was critical of the proposal for mandatory life jackets on lake fishing boats on the big western lakes. There was also a requirement for boats to carry a large length of rope, flares and so on. I agree that flares should be available, but some of the regulations had the capacity to clutter a small boat unnecessarily and this could represent a danger in itself. Everyone taking to the water should have a life jacket, whether he is using a jet ski or an angling craft. I note that according to the brochures for angling competitions in the west, it is a requirement that life jackets be worn.

People should be told that the onus is on them to wear life jackets. I would put the onus on the person taking to the craft in the case of angling boats. I am not talking about boats that bring people to islands in Lough Corrib, for example, which is a structured commercial operation. Where someone is going out with a gillie in a boat for the day, the safest thing to do is to take someone who is familiar with the lake. The system that existed until now encouraged people to rent a boat for a day without anyone to guide them. That is undesirable. Given our economic success, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find someone who will take anglers out in groups of two or three, but they provide an essential service and sometimes make all the difference in terms of survival. They must be encouraged through recognition of their activities.

It was unfortunate, not just from the point of view of angling but also for the tourism industry, that several of the large, successful and long-standing fly-fishing competitions on the great western lakes had to be abandoned over the last few years. However, the World Cup on Lough Mask is taking place again during the August bank holiday this year. This is a successful festival,which brings much revenue to the Ballinrobe and Lough Mask areas. Such activities should be encouraged.

We need to seek a balance. I would put the onus firmly on the person going out in a boat to provide him or herself with a life jacket. I have worn a life jacket for many years, and at one time one was almost laughed at for wearing one in a lake boat. One was also laughed at for putting on sunblock. Those days are gone. It is extraordinary how many people now put on sunblock before going out even on quite cloudy days.

This legislation is important. I am glad it has been introduced and I hope it will be successful.

I welcome the former Minister for Defence, Mr. Michael Noonan, to the public gallery.

I welcome the Minister of State. I have welcomed the Bill from the outset. However, it requires amendment. Where I come from in the midlands there is major concern about jet skis among people who use the inland waterways. I understand why the Minister has exempted Waterways Ireland from the provisions of the Bill. Control of our waterways must be put into the hands of local authorities. People who own jet skis must be registered, whether they use them at sea, on lakes or on rivers.

Senator Dardis commented on the problems of shallow water in lakes. He is correct. The people using jet skis are not too concerned about where they use them. They are out to speed on them. One would think they were out to annoy anyone using the waterways, tourists in pleasure boats, fishermen or children bathing. Jet skis are causing major problems.

Many people use jet skis without life jackets or helmets. The speed of jet skis is also a problem. Are there any controls on the horsepower of jet skis? They are often driven at very dangerous speeds, sometimes where there are boats moving in and out of marinas or where there are bridges. It is only a matter of time before there is a serious accident.

The Bill addresses an area in need of legislation. However, the problems in the waterways under the remit of Waterways Ireland, which includes the River Shannon and all its tributaries, have been raised on numerous occasions on the Order of Business by Senator Glynn and others. I thought this Bill would address those problems. However, having examined the Bill, I believe the Minister might have to rethink it in order to address the real concerns of the people who use inland waterways. On the coast where there are larger expanses of water jet skis may not be so dangerous.

We want people to enjoy the facilities we have at our disposal. However, they must be used in an organised and careful way. Previous speakers have asked whether jet ski users have any training, whether they need a licence or whether anyone can head off on a jet ski and drive at whatever speed they like. There is major concern, which has been expressed by many Senators, but we have a caring Minister who will take on board the views that have been expressed by the Members and will modify the Bill to impose controls, even if that means introducing rules or regulations to empower local authorities. The Garda Síochána has a boat on the inland waterways in the midlands. However, it has no power to do anything about people who speed and cause a nuisance on the waterways. We must give the Garda power to control what happens on the waterways in the midland region, particularly in the Shannon catchment.

I welcome the legislation. It is high time it was introduced. I compliment the Minister on introducing it. I hope it will be modified to enable people to enjoy themselves on our waterways in a safer environment.

I thank Senators for their support of the Bill and for their clear message to the public to take greater care and to have greater consideration for others when using rivers, canals, lakes and waters around the coast. Many Senators called for the striking of a balance between the usage of waters by the public and the safety measures that need to be implemented.

The Bill considerably strengthens the law so as to deter danger and nuisance to the public or wildlife from certain high-powered watercraft, such as jet skis and power boats. The Bill increases penalties for the existing offence of careless or dangerous operation of craft in any waters and provides for seizure or forfeiture of craft as well as the disqualification of offending operators for two years or more as the court may decide.

A number of Senators raised the issue of enforcement. Section 14 authorises the Minister, all city and county councils, of which there are 34, all ten harbour companies under the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000 and Iarnród Éireann to appoint authorised persons to enforce the Bill. Such appointments will significantly supplement the resources of the Garda in ensuring public order and safety on our waters. The Minister recently arranged for the deployment of two Irish Coastguard vessels at Howth and Crosshaven to promote safety awareness at sea, including the wearing of life jackets. Such vessels will be further deployed around the coast in the coming months for that purpose.

I support the comments of Senators Minihan and O'Toole regarding the need for skills, certification and proper training. There is a clear need for all operators of watercraft to be suitably skilled. The question of training needs attention to set appropriate standards and such requirements could be imposed by the ministerial regulations under section 20 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992. For example, regulations have been made recently to require the wearing of life jackets. We could, therefore, deal with that issue by way of ministerial regulation.

A number of Senators also raised the definition of a craft in the Bill. In light of some of the concerns expressed by Senators, the marine survey office of the Department will review what technological developments, such as miniaturisation, can take place. Senators also raised the issue of the more active involvement by the coastguard and the registration of boats. Senator O'Toole called for young people to be encouraged to become actively involved on our waters. This area needs to be examined.

Senator Finucane raised the issue of safety regulations relating to pleasure craft, including jet skis and power boats. The question of compulsory training was also raised. Section 20 of the Merchant Shipping Act empowers the Minister to make regulations. The points raised by Senator Finucane and others will be carefully considered and brought to the attention of the maritime safety directorate of the Department.

The possibility of establishing a small vessel register was raised by most Senators. The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, has announced that the Department is considering the establishment of a small vessel register to ensure that only certified safe pleasure leisure craft are allowed on Irish waters. The register would also identify owners and operators and details of such a proposal, including the naming of vessels for identification, are currently being considered by the Department. The Minister will make an announcement on that issue soon.

Waterways Ireland was raised by a number of Senators, in particular the fact that it is excluded from this Bill. The important policy considerations related to ensuring public safety and amenity and heritage protection, which necessitated this Bill, apply equally to waters under the control or management of Waterways Ireland. There have been serious incidents of risks to human life and wildlife and public nuisance. Accordingly, the legislation on Waterways Ireland and its enforcement are under review by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, which has responsibility for Waterways Ireland. This is being done with a view to identifying appropriate further measures that are needed. The review has to be undertaken under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council, as provided under the British-Irish Agreement, and will be completed as quickly as possible. It will take several weeks rather than months to have the necessary amendments implemented. We will have the same controls right across the country, including under this legislation and the legislation on Waterways Ireland.

I again thank Senators. It was an interesting debate. I was born beside the River Slaney, although I probably spent more time playing hurling and football than boating. However, having listened to those who have experience and who have put forward suggestions, my officials and I will be looking at possible amendments on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Next Tuesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 6 July 2004.
Sitting suspended at 3.45 p.m. and resumed at 4. p.m.