Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1997: Committee Stage.

I welcome the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Deputy Michael Woods, to the Committee. It is the first piece of legislation this committee has dealt with since we came into being and I hope we will deal with it in an efficient and fast manner. In saying that, I will not curtail anybody's comments on the various sections.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 16 to 21, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:

"(a) by the repeal of section 221,".

The purpose of this amendment is to find out why the Minister is not repealing all of section 221. By way of background, when the Minister brought the previous Bill, the Merchant Shipping Commissioners and Irish Lights Bill, 1997, before the Seanad in October 1997 the then Labour Senator Sean Ryan proposed the repeal of a number of sections which the Minister is repealing. Senator Ryan proposed this because sections provide for the compulsory detention and forced labour of merchant seamen in certain circumstances and are, therefore, contrary to the European Social Charter; in fact, they have been condemned by the Council of Europe. We are glad the Minister has been encouraged by Senator Ryan. I put down this amendment to get information and we will not be putting it to a vote.

This is a very important amendment in the way the Deputy has put it because it raises an issue which should be considered at this stage. We are proposing to amend part of the section and that would mean deleting paragraph (a) and the end of paragraph (b). Paragraph (a) says that if a person deserts from his ship he shall be guilty of the offence of desertion and be liable to forfeit all or any part of the effects he leaves on board and of the wages which he has then earned, and also, if the desertion takes place abroad, of the wages he may earn in any other ship in which he may be employed until his next return to the United Kingdom, and to satisfy any excess of wages paid by the master or owner of the ship to any substitute engaged in his place at a higher rate of wages than the rate stipulated to be paid to him, and also, except in the United Kingdom, he shall be liable to imprisonment for any period not exceeding 12 weeks with or without hard labour. That paragraph is deleted already. The end of section 221 (b) says "and also, except in the United Kingdom, he shall be liable to imprisonment for any period not exceeding 10 weeks with or without hard labour". That also goes in the amendment I am making at the moment. The amendment Deputy Bell suggests is that we repeal the whole of section 221, and that includes the rest of subsection (b) which says that "if he neglects, or refuses without reasonable cause, to join his ship, or to proceed to sea in his ship or is absent without leave at any time within 24 hours of the ship's sailing", it deals not with desertion but with absence without leave.

I am sympathetic to the amendment tabled by Deputy Bell. Unlike the other provisions being repealed in section 2, section 221 is not considered to be a provision in contravention of international law or international conventions. However I am prepared to consider that merchant shipping statutes may not be the most appropriate vehicle for the regulation of employer and employee relations. This is the main point Deputy Bell is interested in.

Accordingly, what I proposed to do between now and Report Stage is to take legal advice on the consequences of repealing in full section 221 thereby doing away with the offence of absence without leave as well as the offence of desertion which we are already removing. If we repeal that section on Report Stage it will also be necessary to repeal section 6 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1947 which deals with the offence of absence without leave specified in section 221(b) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. I am mentioning this here because if it does come up I will have to be free to make that amendment on Report Stage as well. As I said in simple terms, we are getting rid of desertion and the consequent imprisonment and hard labour which were potential punishments for absence without leave as well. Whether we should remove absence without leave entirely will be considered on Report Stage.

On the basis I have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 2 and 3 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, paragraph (c), line 18, to delete "inhabited".

The Bill provides that ferry services to inhabited islands can in certain circumstances be exempted from licensing requirements. However, ferry services to uninhabited islands cannot be exempted from licensing in my opinion. There seems to be little logic in this and the amendment will allow ferry services to uninhabited islands to be exempted from licensing as well.

The amendment would have the effect of widening the scope of the limited exemptions proposed in the section. I am very concerned about having any exceptions on the grounds that safety in boats is safety in boats. I appreciate that there are some cases where there are small numbers of people on islands who depend on a ferry service. However, what we are doing is leaving the Minister power by regulations to cover such a situation. I do not know whether I really want to cover a situation like that. I understand the practicality of it but when you talk about safety and safety in boats, I would see it as an issue that we should take up with the Minister for Arts, Culture, Heritage and the Islands. There are probably so few cases where this arises and there is such a small number involved that it is vital that safety be assured. I do not think any of us would feel very happy if there were to be an accident arising from such a situation. Nevertheless there has been a great deal of representation about that position and that there should be very limited exemptions. The amendment would widen the scope of the very limited exemptions proposed in the section because it would delete the words "inhabited islands".

The paragraph as drafted provides that the Minister may, by regulations, exempt in certain special circumstances any class of vehicle carrying passengers to an inhabited island. The purpose behind this is to allow a resident of an island to operate a service to carry a limited number of people on anad hoc basis where local conditions do not permit the use of a licensed boat or where there is no immediate availability of a licensed boat. The regulations will lay down the conditions with regard to the suitability of a class of vessel and the particular requirements in respect of safety equipment. The carriage of passengers to uninhabited islands will and I believe should remain to be covered by the provisions of section 14 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992. For instance, take Ireland’s Eye which is very close to us and there are many people coming and going. This is an uninhabited island except for the ghosts from old monasteries. I know the Deputy is thinking, as we were, about specific inhabited islands and that there should be some provision for them but I really believe we should lay down very strong rules when it comes to licensing boats. There are different rules for smaller boats. These are regulations covering smaller vessels and they are less onerous but it is particularly important that we make provision for safety on all vessels which carry passengers. I may look at our own amendment on Report Stage to see if we should tighten that even further and to extend it to delete “inhabited islands” .

On the basis of that I withdraw the amendment.

Before the Deputy withdraws his amendment Deputy Finucane wants to make a comment.

Will the Minister clarify a specified class or classes of vessels in exemptions from licensing requirements? What types of vessels does he see exempt from licensing requirements?

I will explain in detail when we come to the section.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

In relation to Deputy Finucane's question, section 41(a) deals with ferry boats working in chains, that is, vessels which use traction power based on land and cables or chains to draw themselves across narrow sections of waterway. They are not included in the definition of "passenger boats" or "passenger ships". This amendment removes that exclusion. It will bring this category of vessel into the licensing and certification process to which other types of passenger vessels are subject. I am sure we can all think of one vessel in Waterford working on chains. Up to this it did not come within the provisions but by removing the exclusion as we are doing here it means it will come within that provision in future.

Section 41 (b) allows for the use of vessels in a genuine emergency. For instance, if a Department surveyor needs emergency transport because of an accident or pollution prevention, or if the gardaí or medical personnel need transport for urgent reasons, they would be covered if they travelled on a vessel that is not licensed to carry passengers. This measure would deal with those type of exemptions.

Section 4(1)(c) would exempt certain classes of vessels from licensing under section 14 of the Act. As I indicated on Second Stage, practical difficulties have arisen with the implementation of the Act in the case of work boats and transportation to small inhabited islands. While I acknowledge the concerns raised by Deputies on Second Stage, any exemptions granted will be governed by strict conditions regarding the safety equipment which must be carried on board, the means of contact with the shore and the employer's indication that the employment is covered by a safety statement. This provision will mean classes of vessels comply with the spirit, but not the letter, of the 1992 Act.

Following an incident with a chain ferry in 1997, serious concerns were raised about the safe operation of such vessels. An amendment to the definitions of "passenger boat" and "passenger ship" in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is proposed. There are also other types of exemptions. For example, the insertion of a new section 14(a) in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, will allow for regulations and section 14(a)(i) allows for the exemption of pilot boats, tugs or instruction boats.

Are dredgers, dumping at sea vessels and fish farm boats exempt?

Dredgers would be included if they were work boats. Other classes of boat may fall into similar difficulties. The strict interpretation of the 1992 Act has led to difficulties with certain classes of vessels, including pilot boats, where the people operating the boats and those being carried are experienced and trained in marine matters and working to training operational regulations. Dredgers, dumping vessels, fish farm work boats, Commissioners of Irish Lights work boats and boats or canoes in which individuals or groups are undergoing instruction may also fall into similar difficulties. It is intended that the regulations will apply to classes of vessels and they will enable them to comply with the intention of the 1992 Act, but they may not comply fully with the letter of the Act.

The employer can give an undertaking that the boats being used are in compliance with the safety regulations drawn up by the Marine Survey Office, that the employment is covered by a safety statement under the Safety (Health and Welfare at Work) Act, 1989, and that the boats covered by the exemptions can be clearly identified by the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the Marine Survey Office can carry out spot checks.

Is the Minister satisfied with the exemptions on the basis that employers and employees are involved and given that he stated the 1992 Act would ensure everything would be safe? He stated that an exemption would apply to canoes and instruction boats, but is there a difficulty even with exempting those type of boats?

They would be covered by separate regulations because the people working them would be either fully trained or in the course of training to deal with particular situations. The specific regulations dealing with this would not necessarily require the more static regulation that would apply to passenger vessels generally.

What regulations apply in the case of canoes where instruction is involved? Is the Minister aware of the serious accident in Waterford involving a 15 year old where the boat went out in very bad weather conditions? There are no regulations covering such cases.

Regulation of these activities is a matter for the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation. Our regulations relate to vessel safety and the necessary equipment. That was an horrific accident and the matter is being examined.

I do not want the Minister to comment specifically on the matter.

This measure would not affect the normal regulations and controls that apply to the use of vessels and boats. It would affect, however, the type of boat and the nature of the training of the people giving instruction and training. I will examine the question of training for people working with canoes and boats.

I accept what the Minister said about responsibility for this matter resting with the Minister for Tourism and Sport, but many adventure centres are totally marine related. Therefore, a Minister with responsibility for marine matters cannot absolve his responsibility in that regard. I accept the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreations would be responsible for the many land based adventure centres, but some of them are marine related and people are concerned about the regulations that govern them. Waterford is not the only related case; the Delphi case a few years ago was also marine related.

Leaving that aside, if we exempt from the licensing arrangements cases involving employers and employees and specialist boats - dredgers, dumping at sea boats, fish farm boats and wildlife survey boats - what controls will be in place to ensure those boats are safe? Is it right to exempt them from licensing requirements? Is there a problem with licensing them? To what degree are they surveyed by marine surveyors, or who surveys them?

The regulations are set by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. They can specify the conditions under which some or all of the exemptions apply, but the employer would give an undertaking that the boats used are in compliance with safety guidelines of the Marine Survey Office and they would be subject to inspection by that office. The employer would indicate that the employment is covered by a health and safety at work statement, that the boats to be covered by the exemption are clearly identified - they would have to be named and identified to the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources - and that the Marine Survey Office would monitor and carry out spot checks on them. The system of regulation would be tailored to meet the needs of specialised craft.

I am not happy with the exemption provision in the Bill. There are not enough marine surveyors to carry out proper surveys of existing vessels. The position regarding licensing, surveying, etc. should be fully investigated.

I agree and I intend to tackle that problem shortly. Apart from vessels on which no surveys have been carried out, there are others on which there has been duplication of work. The Deputy is probably aware that two or three surveys have been carried out on some boats. Regarding the resources available, it was suggested the Department might avail of private surveyors to carry out a specified range of inspection tasks and I am considering that. That does not take from work carried out by the MSO, but there are people who are properly qualified to do that work who are not in the Civil Service. The overseeing and checking of all that work would still remain the function of the Marine Surveyor's Office. There is scope to consider that.

I hope the Agreement will be passed in the North and South on Friday and the island will work together more closely on marine matters, inland fisheries and so on.

In relation to marine matters, Harland and Wolff often give a specific measurement for a vessel and that work is repeated here. I really cannot see the sense of that because those working in Harland and Wolff are experts with long experience in their field. There should not be much difficulty in recognising their standards and professionalism and checking they are in line with our requirements. That would avoid the need for us to carry out another survey. There same procedure applies to boats measured by highly professional people in Strathclyde University in Scotland. I fail to understand why we have to measure again those vessels and cannot sort out the standards among ourselves. I agree with Deputy on this matter and I will have to give a good deal of attention to it. I have asked that it be investigated and I will pursue that actively over the coming months.

Between now and Report Stage will the Minister ensure that vessels in respect of which an exemption provision applies will have to be formally surveyed and that a licensing arrangement will apply to them to provide reassurance that they meet safety standards? We are talking about an employer-employee situation. If such safeguards are not put in place, there will be a tragedy on a fish farm in bad weather conditions and then many questions will be asked why an exemption provision applied to those types of vessels.

Will the Minister indicate the exceptional circumstances under which vessels will be exempt from the licensing requirement under section 14? There is no official ferry service to or from Hare Island and Long Island. A service is provided by one or two operators who own a boat with an outboard engine and they do not carry passengers for hire. Will those operators have to apply for an exemption from the licensing requirement if they carry passengers in their boats?

Those are the operators we spoke about earlier who will be the subject of special regulation. I am concerned about this matter, but under the legislation we are providing for them to be exempt from the licensing requirement but they should only be exempt if that is appropriate. I am not entirely happy about this and I will talk to the Minister with responsibility for the islands about it.

The number of operators involved is very small and it should not be very difficult to provide for their needs by grants towards the purchase of a small boat. That will apply to only a small number of islands on which the number of inhabitants is very small. There is a ferry service to the others islands which must comply with the regulations. Neither the Deputy nor I would be happy if one of those small boats was lost. I am aware that often in the west the only alternative to taking one of those boats is to travel by currach. I cannot say much against the currach because they have been used for a long time. We will consider this matter further between now and Report Stage. We provided an exemption to meet the requirements of those operators and, if is appropriate, they can be covered by regulation. I would like to talk to the Minister with responsibility for the islands to establish the number of operators involved and, if there is only a very small number, it may be possible to provide for their needs by way of special grant aid.

Question put and agreed to.

It is proposed that amendments Nos. 3, 4 and amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, to amendment No.4, and amendment No. 5 be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 5, before section 5, to insert the following new section:

"5.-The Merchant Shipping (Com-missioners of Irish Lights) Act, l997, is hereby amended by the insertion after section 6 of the following section:

'6A.-(1) The Commissioners may, for the purpose of providing for current or capital expenditure, from time to time raise or borrow money (whether on the security of the assets of the Commissioners or otherwise), including money in a currency other than the currency of the State, but shall not do so without the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance and upon such terms and conditions as may be approved by the Minister for Finance.

(2) The aggregate at any one time of moneys raised or borrowed under this section shall not exceed £25 million.

(3) The Minister may pay to the Commissioners, in respect of moneys raised or borrowed by the Commissioners under this section, such sums as the Minister determines from time to time, subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance.

(4) All moneys required by the Minister to meet sums which may become payable by him or her under subsection (3) shall be paid from moneys voted by the Oireachtas.

(5) For the purposes of this section moneys raised or borrowed in a currency other than the currency of the State shall be deemed to be the equivalent in the currency of the State of the actual moneys raised or borrowed, such equivalent being calculated according to the rate of exchange at the time of the raising or borrowing for that currency and the currency of the State.'.".

The requirement to amend the Merchant Shipping (Commissioners of Irish Lights) Act, l997, to include this section on borrowing arises from the need to empower the commissioners to secure financing facilities for a new vessel for which they have already placed a contract with a Dutch shipbuilding company. The price of the contract is £15.6 million sterling or approximately £l8 million punts. Its terms require that the commissioners make six staged payments in sterling over the build period until December 1999. Since the commissioners are an all-Ireland body, the new ship is to be jointly funded by Ireland and Britain. It has been agreed with the British authorities that the Irish Exchequer will fund 35 per cent of the cost of the vessel with the balance being met by the General Lighthouse Fund which is administered by the British Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions.

It was decided, with the agreement of the Department of Finance, that the best means of financing the vessel would be bank loans raised by the commissioners. The commissioners have already been involved in detailed negotiations with the financial institutions with a view to entering contracts for the financing of the ship. They propose to secure a short-term loan facility for the construction period of the vessel, with a long-term facility involving the refinancing of the original loan with an Irish tax based lease over a primary lease term of 15 years. In order to minimise currency risks the commissioners intend to purchase 50 per cent of the sterling required at a forward exchange rate.

In the course of the commissioners' discussions with the bank the question arose of their authority to borrow money. The Attorney General's Office has advised that the commissioners do not have the required powers under current legislation. The first down payment for the vessel's build has been made out of the British managed General Lighthouse Fund as a short-term measure. This involves a loss of interest from fund investment and it has been agreed that the Irish Exchequer meet a proportion of this cost pending rectification of the commissioners' legal position with regard to borrowing. Furthermore, the bank is currently offering very competitive interest rates and it is important that the commissioners can enter into contracts to avail of those rates as soon as possible. It is , therefore, necessary to give the commissioners borrowing powers in order to reduce Exchequer exposure over both the short and long-term.

Under British legislation the commissioners already have such powers in respect of Northern Ireland. The British Merchant Shipping Act, 1995, also empowers the commissioners to mortgage property belonging to them in connection with any loan obtained under the Act. Even aside from the current ship financing requirement, it is considered appropriate to confer these powers on the commission in the State in the interests of legislative compatibility and having regard to the commissioners' responsibilities.

The proposed new section allows the commissioners to borrow money, including money in a foreign currency, subject to the consent of the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources and the Minister for Finance. The total amount of money borrowed may not exceed £25 million. This figure allows the commissioners scope to borrow further money at some stage in the future if required. The section also provides that the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, pay to the commissioners certain sums in respect of money borrowed by them. Such amounts shall be paid from money voted by the Oireachtas.

The section also provides that the equivalent in the State of money borrowed in a foreign currency shall be calculated by reference to the prevailing exchange rate at the time the money was borrowed. The provisions contained in this new section were drafted in consultation with, and have the approval of, the Department of Finance.

I will briefly refer to new ship, the financing of which has occasioned the need for this amendment. The new 80 metre vessel will replace the existing light tenderGranuaile which is now almost 30 years old. While the ship will have the primary purpose of servicing aids to navigation, its design ensures multi-functional capacity which will enable it to play an important part in search and rescue operations and in pollution response. The vessel will be equipped with the latest manoeuvring and positioning technology, allowing it to hold position precisely, for safe and accurate placement of floating aids. I am satisfied that the new state of the art ship, which is due to be delivered in late 1999, will enhance the commissioners’ ability to meet their servicing requirements for the 170 offshore lighthouses, light vessels and buoys into the new millennium.

This initiative is testimony to constructive east-west, as well as North-South, co-operation on a project of considerable benefit to the whole island. I trust the committee will appreciate the urgent need for the amendment and support it.

I support the amendment. There is no doubt that a new vessel is required and I am glad to see it will have the most up-to-date technology. If the job is to be done properly, the commissioners require the proper equipment. However, if my calculations are correct, because we are dealing in sterling, it is costing an additional £3 million. Is there no other way to deal with this to avoid giving away £3 million?

That is a question which concerns current exchange rates and contract terms which would be insisted on. It is subject to the Department of Finance being satisfied that this is the best deal we can get in current terms. In the current circumstances it is the best deal available.

Where is the vessel being built? We discussed the Oil Pollution Control Bill last week and I subsequently read an article where the Minister referred to an oil pollution vessel. Is this what he had in mind?

No. That would be additional. We are looking at the possibility of a tug with additional powers specifically to deal with oil pollution and its prevention. The vessel we are discussing here would have some oil pollution prevention facilities on board which would additional and helpful. If we could get at least one purpose built vessel that would be an important start. We would like to see two of them, especially along the west coast. Its location would be near to the Deputy's constituency, in a place such as Castletownbere.

A logical place.

That is the intention. That is something I am only starting to pursue as part of our overall prevention and control facilities; we need that sort of vessel. If a large tanker is in trouble off the west coast, it will need assistance and it must be brought to a place where it will do the least damage. If we are fortunate a vessel will come from Scotland; as this happened recently with a vessel in trouble off the Donegal coast. It made its way to Southampton, but it was listing badly and at one stage it appeared that it would be abandoned. It was assisted by a vessel which came from Scotland. It is fine if commercial vessels will help out but it is important that we have a vessel of our own and that is what I am seeking. This is an additional and necessary facility.

I agree with having a vessel to deal with pollution. It is somewhat contradictory for us to strengthen the oil pollution Bill if we do not put in place a mechanism to deal with adverse eventualities. The Minister's initiative is important in that regard.

Deputy Bell raised the issue of the difference between the punt and sterling at present. Where is the vessel being built?

It is a Dutch contract.

Will it be paid in sterling?

A tender procedure is being followed and that is part of the agreement.

Why not pay in guilders?

I could not say, possibly because the British are paying two-thirds of the cost and we are paying one-third.

Deputy Bell is probably aware that amendments Nos. 1 to 3 to amendment No. 4 in his name are also being discussed.

I am aware of that. I would like to put on record my reasons for tabling these amendments. Is it in order to do that?

I have no problem with that.

Amendment No. 1 to Government amendment No. 4 is a technical one which proposes that the Mercantile Marine Acts, 1955 to 1983, section 3 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994, and section 3 of this Bill may be cited together as the Mercantile Marine Acts, 1955 to 1998, and shall be construed together as one. The amendment is designed to redress what, in my opinion, is an omission in the Bill. The Bill does not update the reference to the Mercantile Marine Acts, 1955 to 1983, and that is why I tabled the amendment.

Amendment No. 2 to the Government amendment proposes that "section 4 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994" be inserted in the first line of subsection (2) after "1894-1997". Again, this is a technical amendment designed to redress an omission in the Bill. The 1997 Act updated the 1894 to 1993 reference, not the 1894 to 1994 reference provided in section 1(5) of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994. Therefore, section 4 of this Act is excluded from the 1894 to 1997 reference contrary to the intention in 1994. This amendment would insert such a reference.

Amendment No. 3 to the second Government amendment proposes the deletion in the first line of subsection (3) of "section 5" and the substitution of "sections 1, 2 and 5". This would be the correct reference if my first amendment to the Government amendment were accepted. This amendment seeks to ensure that the sections repealing the criminal offences contrary to marine workers' rights come into operation immediately. Acceptance of the amendment would mean that these sections would not have to await a commencement order from the Minister.

The Department has made special efforts to obtain assistance from the EU towards costs and has had some success in this matter in recent days. I want to put on record my thanks for the Commission's, and, in particular, Commissioner Kinnock's support in that regard; we have managed to secure EU funding of just over £1 million, a sum which will be divided under the Irish and UK funding arrangement. We are very happy that the Commission acceded to our request for funding. We may also be able to obtain further funding in this area and we are following up on that.

Amendment No. 4 is consequential on No. 3. The parliamentary draftsman's office has advised that the construction reference be deleted and also that it is necessary to amend the short title and collective citation as the Acts will be dated 1998 and the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894 to 1997, shall be cited rather than 1894 to 1996. The amendment of subsection 3 by the insertion of the words "other than section 5" ensures that the new section dealing with borrowing powers will come into effect immediately upon the enactment of the Bill. The purpose of Deputy Bell's first amendment to amendment No. 4 is to change the proposed collective citation construction of the Bill. I have been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the amendment is unnecessary and that my amendment of the Mercantile Marine Act, 1955, involves the straight substitution of one section for another.

The Deputy's second amendment to amendment No. 4 proposes "in the first line of subsection (2), after "1894 to 1997" to insert "section 4 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994". The Office of the Attorney General has advised me that the proposed amendment is not necessary and that the point is already covered.

The Deputy's third amendment proposes "in the first line of subsection (3), to delete "section 5" and substitute "sections 1, 2 and 5". That would be the appropriate reference if amendment No. 3 were accepted. In view of the urgency attaching to the granting of borrowing powers to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, it is my intention that section 5 will be commenced when the Bill is signed into law. Since the Bill provides that all the other sections could be commenced by order on the day the Bill is signed into law, I assure the Deputy there will be no unnecessary delay with the commencement of the sections to which he referred.

The consequences of the Deputy's proposed amendments would have to be considered and I will consider them between now and Report Stage. While I appreciate the points the Deputy made in regard to the Bill's provisions coming into operation immediately, it may not be feasible to do this in certain instances. However, if the Deputy would be agreeable, I will consider the matter further before Report Stage.

I would be prepared not to press the amendments at this stage on the basis of the Minister's explanations and the undertaking he has given to consider the matter further prior to Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, before section 5, to insert the following new section:

6.-(1) This Act may be cited as the Merchant Shipping (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1998.

(2) The Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894 to 1997, and this Act may be cited together as the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894 to 1998.

(3) This Act, other than section 5, shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.".

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, to amendment No. 4 not moved.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 5 deleted.

I move amendment No. 5:


Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.