I welcome the Minister and his officials to the meeting to discuss the Committee Stage of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Bill, 1999.
Vol. 3 No. 2
I welcome the Minister and his officials to the meeting to discuss the Committee Stage of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Bill, 1999.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 5, subsection (3), line 28, after "with" to insert "section 4 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994, and".
This is designed to remedy a technical oversight. Section 4 of the 1994 Act was not included in the construction clause of the previous legislation.
The Attorney General's office advises me that section 4 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1994, already inserts a textual amendment into the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and, therefore, it appears quite unnecessary to construe it with the 1894 Act. Section 4 of the 1994 Act is already included in the citation of the Merchant Shipping Acts and it is not necessary to include a reference to it in this Bill.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, line 18, after "damage to," to insert "or collision with,".
The definition of a marine casualty is as recommended by the Investigation of Marine Casualties Policy Review Group which presented its report to my predecessor in September 1998. It is largely in keeping with the definition as recognised by the International Maritime Organisation - IMO - in its resolution K8492 of 27 November 1997, which outlines the IMO code for the investigation of marine casualties and incidents.
A number of the more high profile casualties which have occurred in the recent past have involved collisions between vessels. Although the definition as originally drafted would cover such incidents, it is important to include a specific reference to collisions in the definition of marine casualty so there can be no doubt or ambiguity about such incidents being investigated by the board.
That is an important insertion on the basis that some of the main accidents we have had to date involved collisions.
Amendment No. 3 is consequential on amendment No. 16 and they will be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, to delete lines 24 to 26, and substitute the following:
"(iii) a vessel normally located or moored in Irish waters and under the control of a resident of the State, in international waters contiguous to Irish waters,
and includes an accident or damage referred to insection 26(1)(b);”.
The policy review group, in its report, recommended that the board should investigate casualties which involve Irish vessels anywhere or vessels in Irish waters. This regime is broadly in line with the casualty investigation systems in other jurisdictions. I am, however, concerned that some incidents might occur outside our territorial waters, involving Irish or non-Irish registered vessels, the results of which might adversely affect our natural interests, such as the recent collision between a Dutch and a Spanish vessel off the west coast of Ireland which posed a possible pollution threat to our waters and coastline. The new board should, at the very least, have the ability to make inquiries into such an incident and should be in a position statutorily to carry out an investigation, particularly if the flag state of any vessel so requests. Hence, my proposed amendment to the definition of marine casualty.
The amendment proposed to the definition of a marine casualty refers to section 26(1)(b), where I propose to allow for the board to investigate marine casualties which involve non-Irish vessels in non-Irish waters. This amendment would allow the board, for example, to investigate an accident involving a foreign registered vessel carrying Irish nationals outside our territorial waters. It would also facilitate the board to investigate an accident to a foreign flag vessel within the Irish Sea area or within our exclusive economic zone at the behest of another maritime administration.
Will the Minister clarify territorial waters in the context of other legislation dealing with piracy? In such situations a 200 mile limit has been mentioned. Would this be the same?
No, this would be a 12 mile limit.
How, in the context of the proposed legislation, would we be fixed in relation to this? If we are proceeding with other legislation relating to piracy acts which gives us the right to board vessels up to a 200 mile limit, how does that affect casualties in relation to territorial waters? Will it be amended?
They are covered under the law of the sea convention.
What are covered under the law of the sea convention?
The piracy provisions.
We are talking about a limit of 200 miles in that case.
They apply outside the 200 mile limit.
Will this Bill restrict the limit to 12 miles in the context of Irish territorial waters? There will be no uniformity.
I do not understand. What is the significance of uniformity?
Do marine casualties take place within 12 miles of the coastline or 200 miles? If it is 200 miles in piracy legislation - and many trawler men have asked that the Naval Service be given the right to board up to 200 miles out - will a marine casualty exist within a 12 mile limit or a 200 mile limit?
We are providing for a non-Irish ship carrying Irish nationals outside the 12 mile limit. Our only responsibility is within our 12 mile limit in this situation.
I am aware the piracy legislation is independent of that but does this provide for a 12 mile limit as opposed to a 200 mile limit? There could be a casualty at sea outside the 12 mile limit where the vessels involved are not Irish.
The flag state would be responsible for investigation outside the 12 mile limit. We are extending our powers to enable us to investigate if Irish nationals are involved. Outside the 12 mile limit, it is the responsibility of the flag state.
If there is a collision outside the 12 mile limit and it does not involve an Irish ves-sel, is that entirely the responsibility of the countries involved? There was recently a potential pollution situation which involved vessels outside the 12 mile limit where the pollutant could have finished up on our coastline. Do we have the right to investigate a collision of that nature?
The pollution controls and investigations will extend 200 miles but unless there is a pollution situation which we could investigate, it would not be our business.
In a collision, which would not involve pollution, would it not be our business?
Unless there are Irish nationals or interests involved.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, line 39, after "plan" to insert "chart,".
The definition of record is based on that contained in the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. This amendment adds the word "chart" to the items already listed and can be construed as being of a record for the purpose of the Bill as it is more commonly used and referred to than the word "map" in maritime navigation.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 12, after "as" to insert "Bord Imscrúdú Taismí Muirí or, in the English language,".
This amendment is self-explanatory. I think it was the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy Ó Cuív, who made the point that it is usual to include the Irish version in all Bills.
I thank the Deputy for tabling this amendment which I am pleased to accept. It is important that the new board being established by this Bill should be readily identifiable by its title in our national language in the hope that the Irish name will be used as widely as possible by the board in its future operations.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, subsection (1) (a), line 24, after “Minister” to insert “of which one shall be appointed from amongst persons nominated by the Marine Institute, one shall be appointed from amongst persons nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and one shall be appointed from amongst persons nominated by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation”.
I tabled this amendment because we had been talking about the question of independence in respect of these boards. The expert report suggested that the board should be independent of the Minister. My amendment seeks to achieve this by including a representative from ICTU and IBEC as the nominating bodies.
Perhaps the Minister will bear with me for a moment. There seems to be a change in the official's document compared to mine. Amendment No. 6a is an alternative so we will take amendments Nos. 6 and 6a together by agreement.
I understand where the Deputies are coming from in putting forward the suggestions regarding the membership of the new board. However, since the publication of the Bill my Department has received a number of comments from within the marine sector as to membership of the board. In some instances, suggestions have been made as to appropriate bodies or organisations which could provide suitably qualified board members.
The establishment of this new board is a major initiative which will introduce a casualty investigation system to match the highest international standards. For this reason, it is important in setting up the new board to have a membership which is highly competent to discharge the duties assigned to it and to have a chairperson who is capable of ensuring its efficient operation. It will be essential that the choice of appointments receives careful and proper consideration by me and in this regard I do not wish to have the scope of my choices confined in such a way as might be the case as a result of these amendments.
I assure Deputies that I welcome nominations for board membership from the organisations mentioned by them as I would from any other quarter, particularly in the marine sector. This will enable me to consider nominations from the widest possible choices. For this reason, I do not propose to confine my choice of nominees to those put forward by those organisations only. I assure Deputies that full and careful consideration will be given to all nominations received before the appointments are made. Therefore, I do not propose to accept either of the amendments.
I assume the three persons appointed by the Minister, including the chairman and two other members, will come from a marine background.
Will the representatives from the two organisations referred to in my amendment be in contention?
I have an open mind. I have not even thought about the board but I will have an open consideration and entertain whatever nominations are made and, indeed, following that I will speak to the Deputy in that regard.
I move amendment No. 6a:
In page 8, subsection (1)(a), line 24, after “Minister” to insert “of which one shall be appointed by the Marine Institute”.
With regard to the composition of membership, my amendment seeks to include that one shall be appointed by the Marine Institute.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 9, subsection (4), lines 20 to 23, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:
"(c) is regarded pursuant to Part XIII of the Second Schedule to the European Parliament Elections Act, 1997, as having been elected to the European Parliament,”.
Again, this is just an addition. Effectively, there is a technical error in that the 1997 and 1993 Acts referred to in the Bill, as published, were repealed in 1997.
The Attorney General's office has advised that the amendment proposed by the Deputy is correct. I, therefore, accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 7a:
In page 11, subsection (1)(a), line 31, to delete “any” and substitute “the”.
The purpose of section 17 is to ensure the exclusion of any member of the board or any investigator, consultant or adviser engaged by the board from participating in an investigation into a marine casualty or, indeed, in any other matter being considered by it in which they might have a relevant interest. It provides that such an interest must be disclosed by the person before any consideration is given to the board to the investigation of that casualty.
A drafting error has now been drawn to my attention by the Attorney General's office. I was advised that the reference in subsection 1(a) to “any investigation or matter” effectively means that a member of the board or an investigator, consultant or adviser who has an interest in a casualty or matter would, by statutory definition, be excluded from participating in any other investigations or matters being considered by the board.
I am sure the committee members will recognise that this is not the intended principle of the provisions of this section. My amendment will ensure that such persons will only be disqualified from taking part in an investigation or consideration of a matter in which they have a relevant interest and they will still be able to participate in casualty investigations where they have no relevant interests.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 12, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
"18.-Paragraph 1(2) of the First Schedule to the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, is hereby amended by the addition of 'Bord Imscrúdú Taismí Muirí,'.".
The purpose of this amendment is to add the board to the list of bodies to which the Freedom of Information Act will apply. I wish to hear the Minister's view on this important matter.
The Attorney General's office advised me there is a provision within the Freedom of Information Act to allow for the addition of bodies to those already subject to the Act and that this can be done by regulations made under the Act. In the circumstances, it would be more appropriate to have the new Marine Casualty Investigation Board included by way of such regulations and not by a provision contained in this Bill. I assure the Deputy that I do not have a difficulty in principle with the Marine Casualty Investigation Board becoming subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the Ombudsman Act and that my Department will liaise with the Department of Finance to arrange for the board to be included in appropriate regulations or amendments made under these Acts as soon as possible. I cannot accept the amendment.
I accept the Minister's explanation. As he agreed with the principle of the amendment, I will withdraw it on that basis.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 12, before section 18, to insert the following new section:
"18.-The First Schedule to the Ombudsman Act, 1980, is hereby amended by the addition of 'Bord Imscrúdú Taismí Muirí,'.".
I understand the Department of Finance is currently in the process of drafting an amendment on this matter which will provide for the addition of a number of new bodies that will become subject to the criteria of that Act. I am advised by the Attorney General that it would be more appropriate to have the new board included in the amending ombudsman Bill rather than providing an amendment to this Bill.
On the basis that the Minister accepts the principle I will withdraw the amendment.
Amendment No. 10 is a drafting amendment.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 12, subsection (1), line 25, to delete "of" and substitute "as".
This is a simple grammatical amendment that has been advised by the parliamentary draftsman.
Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 14 are related and are to be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 13, subsection (1), line 30, after "master," to insert "skipper, person in charge,".
I understand that the term "master" is more commonly applied to merchant or commercial vessels and would not be readily identifiable with those who are operating a pleasure or recreation craft. In order to avoid any doubt or misunderstanding I propose to include skipper or person in charge among those on whom there will be a statutory obligation to report a marine casualty to the board.
Amendment No. 12 has already been discussed with amendment No. 11.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 13, subsection (1), line 46, after "master," to insert "skipper, person in charge,".
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 14, subsection (2), line 6, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following:
"(a) the name and description of the vessel and its International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number, where applicable,”.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that as much relevant information as possible is included in the report that will have to be made regarding casualties. The IMO number will be extremely useful to all authorities in establishing the full identity of a vessel and the details of the quantity of possible pollutants on board will assist in evaluating any threats arising from a casualty and in dealing with these threats in a quicker, more appropriately and more effective way.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 14, subsection (2)(c), line 8, after "master," to insert "skipper, person in charge,".
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 14, subsection (2), lines 23 and 24, to delete paragraphs (i) and (j) and substitute the following:
"(i) the extent of damage caused to the environment,
(j) a description of the cargo of the vessel, and
(k) the quantity of any substance on board the vessel which, if released into the sea or other environment would be or be likely to cause pollution as defined in the Sea Pollution Act, 1991, or otherwise.”.
This amendment has the same reasoning behind it. The IMO number will be very useful to all authorities and therefore we want to include it for the details of possible pollutants and so on.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 14, lines 35 and 36, to delete subsection (1) and substitute the following:
"(1) Where the Board considers that an investigation is warranted and feasible, it may investigate-
(a) a marine casualty, or
(b) after consultation with the Minister, the nature and cause of any accident or damage which any vessel has sustained or caused, or is alleged to have sustained or caused, which, if the vessel had been an Irish registered vessel, would be a marine casualty.”.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 15, subsection (4), line 6, to delete ", impede or improperly" and substitute "or impede or improperly to".
This is a drafting amendment.
Both the parliamentary draftsman and the Attorney General's office have looked at this amendment and I am advised that it is not necessary as it adds nothing to the meaning or interpretation that already exists. I do not therefore believe the amendment is necessary.
If the Minister is satisfied it is not necessary I will withdraw the amendment.
It is proposed to take amendments Nos. 18, 19 and 20 together.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 15, before section 27, to insert the following new section:
"27.-(1) Subject to subsection (2), an investigator may, by the use of reasonable force if necessary, enter any place or premises or means of transport (including a vessel) for the purpose of carrying out an investigation (including to question a person whom he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, may have information concerning the marine casualty in respect of which the investigator is appointed under section 26).
(2) Except with the consent of the occupier, an investigator shall not enter a private dwelling unless he or she has obtained a warrant from the District Court undersection 28 authorising such entry.
(3) An investigator may search any place or premises or means of transport he or she may enter for the purposes of an investigation under this Part and take possession of and remove any object which he or she believes on reasonable grounds to be relevant to the conduct of the investigation that is found in the course of the search.".
Deputies can see I am proposing a significant amendment to the Bill which deals with the powers available to investigators conducting investigations. I propose the insertion of three new sections which will effectively delete section 27 and replace it with sections that are more substantial and specific in relation to the powers being conveyed to investigators. I do so on the basis of advice from the Attorney General's office, which strongly recommended that thesespecific powers be more strongly outlined in the Bill rather than in statutory regulations made under the Bill, as was originally envisaged by my Department.
The powers now being provided for are broadly in line with those available to marine casualty investigators in other countries and in most cases are similar to powers of inspectors carrying out inspections into aviation accidents in Ireland. It is vitally important that those carrying out marine casualty investigations are provided with the necessary powers to carry out such investigations and that these powers are clear and transparent to all. Under the proposed amendments investigators will be empowered to carry out a search of any place, premises or means of transport including a vessel, to remove any object considered relevant to the investigation, to carry out tests on that object, to gather evidence in various ways and, perhaps most important, to have unhampered access to any vessel, wreckage and control over the scene of a marine casualty to ensure the investigation can be conducted without hindrance. Many of these powers were also recommendations of the policy review group and I am satisfied they are warranted to ensure that a full and comprehensive investigation can be carried out into any marine casualty that occurs.
The amendment is broad ranging and essential, but when the original legislation came through on 15 December last, would the discussions with the Attorney General on clarification of the issues have taken place subsequently or would the Attorney General have been consulted in relation to the initial legislation before 15 December?
The Attorney General would obviously have been consulted, but on further study it was felt that rather than having regulations it was important to include this important area in the legislation. It strengthens the legislation and the investigators' powers considerably.
When did the review report referred to by the Minister come out?
So the review report of September 1998 would not have been truly reflected in the legislation of December 1999?
They probably should have been, but they were not.
That is fine.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 15, before section 27, to insert the following new section:
"28.-(1) If a judge of the District Court is satisfied on the sworn information of an investigator that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is information or an object required by an investigator for the purposes of an investigation under this Part held in any place or premises or means of transport (including a vessel), the judge may issue a warrant authorising an investigator, accompanied where appropriate by other investigators or by a member of the Garda Síochána, at any time or times within one month from the date of issue of the warrant, on production of the warrant if so required, to enter that place or those premises or means of transport, if need be by the application of reasonable force, and exercise therein or thereon all or any of the powers conferred on an investigator under this Act.
(2) An investigator, where he or she considers it necessary, may require a member of the Garda Síochána to assist the investigator when exercising a power of entry or otherwise conferred on an investigator by or under this Act which may involve the use of force, and a member of the Garda Síochana so required shall, unless he or she has a reasonable excuse for not doing so, comply with the requirement.".
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 15, before section 27, to insert the following new section:
"29.-(1) Where possession of an object is taken by an investigator undersection 27(3), the investigator-
(a) may, subject to paragraph (b), cause such tests, including tests to destruction, to be conducted on the object as necessary for the purposes of the investigation,
(b) shall to the extent that is practical and safe to do so and does not unreasonably impede the progress of the investigation-
(i) take all reasonable measures to invite the owner of the object, and any person who appears on reasonable grounds to be entitled to possession of the object, to be present at any tests referred to inparagraph (a), and
(ii) allow persons referred to insubparagraph (i) to be present at those tests, and
(c) subject to the need to conduct such tests, shall cause the object to be preserved pending its return to that owner or person, or to the person from whom possession was taken, as soon as possible after it has served the purpose for which possession of the object was taken.
(2) An investigator may take any measurements or photographs, or make any tape, electrical or other recordings, he or she considers necessary for the purposes of an investigation, examination or inquiry made by him or her under this Act.
(3) An investigator shall have unhampered access to any vessel wreckage and the place where it is located, and unrestricted control over it, to ensure that a detailed examination can be made without delay by persons who under this Act are entitled to participate in any investigation in connection with the wreckage or marine casualty from which it resulted.
(4) An investigator may give to any person in or in the vicinity of a vessel or the wreckage of a vessel involved in a marine casualty, or any site or object the investigator considers, on reasonable grounds, might be relevant to the investigating of the marine casualty, such directions to prevent or regulate the access of the person to the vessel, wreckage, site or object, and for such period, as the investigator considers necessary to enable a proper investigation of the marine casualty or such inquiry to be carried out under this Act.
(5) A direction undersubsection (4) may be given orally or in writing, or generally to all persons by a written notice affixed on or in such a way in the vicinity of the vessel, wreckage, site or object so as to be clearly visible to the public or persons to whom it is directed, or by any other means the investigator considers necessary to inform the public generally.”.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 15, between lines 48 and 49, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) Information obtained under this section shall not be admissible in criminal proceedings against the person concerned."
The amendment is self-explanatory and is designed to safeguard people against a challenge based on privilege against self-incrimination.
While I do not propose to accept the amendment, my amendment provides for the type of safeguard the Deputy is seeking in relation to people giving evidence to an investigator. The Bill makes clear that it is not the function of an investigation into a marine casualty to apportion blame or liability. For this reason I agree with the Deputy that while a person with information relevant to the casualty should be compelled to provide this information, there should be some protection for such person from criminal prosecutions as a result of the evidence they give. The policy review group found that experience showed that individuals with information about casualties are more forthcoming to investigators where there is no risk that the source will be used or prosecuted by virtue of giving the information. I am satisfied because of this that my amendment covers the concerns adequately, though I accept the Deputy's legitimate point.
If the Minister is happy his amendment covers this I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
It is covered in section 22.
Blame or liability in relation to marine casualties before this legislation was never apportioned, sometimes the Minister was probably slightly constrained in what he could express about some of the casualties. I presume pollution legislation covers spillages or other attendant problems. The marine casualty unit cannot apportion blame in the case of a collision at sea. I presume the other legislation comes into operation in those circumstances.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 16, lines 1 to 4, to delete subsection (4) and substitute the following:
"(4) The investigator may, for the purposes of the investigation-
(a) examine any person required to attend before him or her in accordance with subsection (2) and may require answers or returns to any inquiry he or she thinks fit to make; and
(b) administer an oath and require any person examined to make and sign a declaration of the truth of the statements made by the person in his or her examination.
(5) An investigator may make such copies or take such extracts from the information gathered undersubsection (4) as the investigator considers necessary for the purposes of the investigation.
(6) If a person objects to answering a question asked of him or her as a witness at an investigation or inquiry on the grounds that the answer might tend to incriminate the person or make the person liable to a penalty, and the person is informed of his or her obligation to answer the question, the person shall not refuse to answer the question but the answer given on that occasion shall not be admissible as evidence in criminal or other proceedings against the person other than proceedings against him or her in respect of the falsity of the answer or the failure to answer the question.
(7) A person who fails to comply with this section (including a requirement of an investigator under this section) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000.".
Following publication of the Bill, concerns were expressed by a number of those in the marine sector about the usefulness of the powers which had been provided regarding the requirement for witnesses to attend and answer questions from an investigator. It was pointed out that the Bill as drafted originally did not provide investigators with the necessary power to compel those brought before them to answer questions or provide information known to them for the purpose of the investigation.
Deputies will agree it would not be satisfactory for this to remain unchanged as it could lead to investigators being unable to establish fully the cause and circumstances of a particular casualty. These matters were raised with the Office of the Attorney General and I am now proposing the above amendment to address the position. Under this amendment, a person required to give information to investigators must do so. Significantly, I am proposing that such information cannot be used in criminal proceedings against that person. I am satisfied this safeguard will address any concerns regarding the inadmissibility of such evidence and incorporates the principle of Deputy Bell's earlier amendment.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 16, before section 29, to insert the following new section:
"29.-(1) Where an investigator believes on reasonable grounds that the physical or medical examination of a person who is directly or indirectly involved in the operation of any vessel is or may be relevant to the investigation, the investigator may, by notice in writing signed by the investigator, require-
(a) the person, within such time (not exceeding 12 hours in the case of an examination or test for the presence or level, if any, of intoxicants in the person’s blood), and at such place, as is specified in the notice, to submit to a physical or medical examination or to give samples for analysis or testing, or
(b) a medical practitioner or other person examining or who has examined a person involved in the operation of a vessel or who has analysed or tested samples referred to in paragraph (a), whether at the request of the investigator or otherwise, to provide to the investigator a report on the results of any such examination, analysis or test.
(2) A medical practitioner may refuse to carry out an examination under subsection (1) on medical grounds.
(3) A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with this section (including a requirement of an investigator under this section) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,000.
(4) In this section 'intoxicants' includes alcohol and drugs and any combination of drugs or of drugs and alcohol.".
This amendment provides for a new section to be inserted in the Bill which effectively means the deletion of section 38. Under this amendment, an investigator will still have the power to require a person involved in a marine casualty to undergo a physical or medical examination or to give samples for analysis or testing. This will include testing to establish the presence, or otherwise, of drugs or alcohol in their blood, whether or not such a presence would have played a part in the casualty. However, it is not the intention to test for intoxicants from a disciplinary point of view. On the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, the amendment clarifies that specific tests for intoxicants must be carried out within a set timeframe and provides for the insertion of this section in a more relevant and appropriate part of the Bill which covers the powers of investigators.
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 23:
In the last line of the new subsection (1)(a), after “samples” to insert “of urine or blood”.
I am not sure if the Minister covered this amendment.
As I said, the provisions of this new section will enable an investigator to require a person to submit to a physical or medical examination or to give samples for analysis or testing. The purpose of such examinations or testing will be to establish the general physical or medical fitness of a person involved in the operation of a vehicle in a marine casualty and how the state of that person's fitness could have played a part in the cause of the casualty. The specific powers proposed for marine casualty investigators in this matter are consistent with those already available to investigators who conduct investigations into aviation casualties.
Obviously, the use of such testing procedures will be necessary to establish the presence, or otherwise, of intoxicants in such instances. The provision of blood or urine samples will be required. It is possible that different testing procedures could reasonably be required to establish if a person had other medical or fitness conditions which were relevant to the cause of the casualty. In such cases, the testing required might involve more than the provision of a blood or urine sample and could, for example, include the provision of samples of tissue or other body matter. For this reason, I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the legislation should not be confined to the taking of blood or urine samples alone and that provision should be made for the taking of samples in the wider sense.
The purpose of including an offence provision in subsection (3) of this new section is to ensure that any person required to comply with this section does so unless of course they have reasonable excuses not to. I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that this is a standard provision and an adequate safeguard is provided by the fact that it would be for a court to decide on the merits of any prosecution brought before it under this section. I am also advised that the principle of the Deputy's amendment already applies to the investigator's finding which will be able to refer to the failure of any person to comply with this section.
Is the Minister satisfied my two amendments are covered adequately or does he think we should go further?
They are more than adequately covered.
I move amendment No. 2 to amendment No. 23:
To delete the new subsection (3) and substitute the following:
"(3) Where a person fails without reasonable excuse to comply with this section the investigator may draw such inference from such failure as he or she thinks proper.".
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 17, subsection (1), line 33, after "or sections" to insert "or, if that person be deceased, then such person as appears to the Board best to represent that person's interest".
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that in the case where a person involved in a marine casualty had died, the next of kin will be enabled to receive a draft of the board's report on the casualty, for comment in accordance with this section. This will be an important procedure in allowing the board to keep bereaved families informed of the contents of the draft report, as well as providing natural justice in allowing such persons to address issues raised in the report prior to its publication.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 18, subsection (6), line 6, after "contents" to insert ", except with the prior consent in writing of the Board".
I have been advised by the Attorney General that this amendment is necessary to avoid doubt as to whether a person supplied with a draft report under this section could show it to their legal representative, thereby inadvertently breaching the legislation, as such consultation could be construed as publishing the report. The amendment provides for the board when sending a draft to permit the person to pursue such consultation in the interests of ensuring a fair procedure in inviting comments from them in relation to the draft.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 18, subsection (2)(c), line 35, to delete “Justice” and substitute “judge”.
This is a minor amendment aimed at keeping consistency in the references to the District Court Judiciary in the Bill. Section 27(3) refers to the "judge".
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 18, subsection (2)(c)(ii), line 44, after “oath” to insert “or affirmation”.
This amendment inserts a standard provision to allow a witness give an affirmation rather than an oath.
I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the additional requirement of an affirmation, as proposed by Deputy Bell, is not necessary, as the administration of an oath by a tribunal of inquiry is sufficient for the purposes of the Bill.
We can take it that it is covered within the legal framework.
Amendment No. 23 proposes the insertion of a new section to deal with powers to require medical or physical tests on persons involved in a marine casualty. This new section effectively provides for the same powers as outlined in section 38. Consequently I propose that we delete section 38.
Acceptance of amendment No. 28 involves the deletion of section 41.
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 20, before section 41, to insert the following new section:
41.-Where an investigation of a marine casualty has been commenced after 26 February, 1992, by an officer appointed under section 465, 466 or 728 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and on the commencement of this Act a report has not been published by the Minister, the Board shall complete the investigation and publish the report of the investigation, in accordance withPart 3 of this Act.”.
The purpose of this section is to allow the board to complete investigations of marine tragedies that have been commenced after 26 February 1992 by the Department under the 1894 Act and which have not had a report published on the enactment of this Bill and to publish reports of such investigations. This was the date the then Minister for the Marine announced in the Dáil that all future reports of marine casualties, as a matter of policy, would be published. The amendment has been advised by the Attorney General's office as the original wording in section 41 suggested that such investigations should be completed in accordance with Part 3 of the 1894 Act, which is incorrect. It should refer to publishing these reports under Part 3 of the Act.
Are many of these reports still outstanding?
There are approximately 20 reports.
What time frame are we talking about?
There are three ready to be published in the next six weeks or so. The others will be published by the board.
Will they be placed in the Oireachtas Library?
Yes. They will be fully published.
The great criticism made in the past was the length of time it took to produce these reports. In many case there were fatalities and the grieving process was lengthy for the people concerned. It is the intention of the Bill to produce reports within a certain time frame. Is it two years?
The average time in the past was three years. Can I take that the reports, other than the three which the Minister hopes to place in the Library shortly, will be produced within nine months?
It is hoped to keep within the time scale. The long delay has not been satisfactory.
The Minister has a backlog to consider.
Every effort will be made to produce them.
When the legislation is passed can one assume the seven reports still outstanding and all the casualty reports will be produced within a time frame of nine months as envisaged under the Bill?
Acceptance of amendment No. 29 involves the deletion of section 42. Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 29 is related and both may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 21, before section 42, to insert the following new section:
42.-(1)Section 2(1) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended-
(a) by the substitution of the following for the definition of ’fishing vessel’;
'fishing vessel' means a vessel designed, equipped or used commercially for catching or taking fish or other living resources of the sea (including the sea bed) or freshwater;',
(b) in the definition of ’passenger boat’, by the deletion of, ’a fishing vessel’,
(c) in the definition of ’passenger ship’, by the deletion of, ’a fishing vessel’,
(d) by the insertion of the following after the definition of ’passenger ship’:
' "personal watercraft" means a craft of less than 4 metres in length which uses an internal combustion engine having a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion and which is designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on, rather than within the confines of, a hull;',
(e) in the definition of ’vessel’ by the insertion after ’navigation’ of ’and personal watercraft’.
(2) Section 18 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended by the substitution of the following for subsection (1):
"(1) The Minister may, by regulations, make such provision as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient for the purpose of ensuring -
(a) the safety of-
(i) passenger boats,
(ii) the passengers and crews of passenger boats, and
(iii) other persons, and of property, from injury or damage caused by, resulting from or arising out of the use of passenger boats;
(b) that the use of a passenger boat does not create a disturbance or create a disturbance or constitute a nuisance.’.
(3) Section 18(2) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended -
(a) in paragraph (d), by the substitution for ’specified risks, and’ of ’specified risks,’,
(b) in paragraph (e) by the substitution for ’such standards as aforesaid.’ of ’such standards as aforesaid,’,
(c) by the insertion of the following after paragraph (e):
'(f) provide for the registration of passenger boats or specified classes of passenger boats and the licensing or certification of masters or persons in control of or operating passenger boats or passenger boats of a specified class,
(g)(i) regulate the use of passenger boats or specified classes of passenger boats by reference to the age or other qualifications of masters or persons in control of or operating passenger boats or passenger boats of a specified class,
(ii) regulate or prohibit the use of passenger boats or specified classes of passenger boats in particular circumstances, and the consumption of alcohol or drugs by masters or persons in control of or operating passenger boats or passenger boats of a specified class, and
(h) require and regulate the use of lifejackets on specified classes of passenger boats.’.
(4) Section 18(4) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended by the insertion after 'passenger boats' of 'or persons on or using passenger boats'.
(5) Section 18(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended, in paragraphs (a) and (b)(i) by the substitution for ’£1,000’ of ’£1,500’.
(6) Section 19 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended by the substitution of the following for subsection (1):
'(1) The Minister may, by regulations, make such provision as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient for the purpose of ensuring -
(a) the safety of-
(i) fishing vessels,
(ii) the crews of fishing vessels, and
(iii) other persons, and of property, from injury or damage caused by, resulting from or arising out of the use of fishing vessels;
(b) that the use of a fishing vessel does not create a disturbance or constitute a nuisance.’.
(7) Section 19(2) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended -
(a) in paragraph (d) by the substitution for ’other findings of such surveys, and’ of ’other findings of such surveys,’,
(b) in paragraph (e), by the substitution for ’such standards as aforesaid.’ of ’such standards as aforesaid, and’,
(c) by the insertion of the following after paragraph (e):
'(f) require and regulate the use of lifejackets on specified classes of fishing vessels.’.
(8) Section 19(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended in paragraph (a) by the substitution for ’£1,000’ of ’£1,500’.
(9) Section 20 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended-
(a) by the substitution of the following for subsection (1):
'(1) The Minister may, by regulations, make such provision as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient for the purpose of ensuring -
(a) the safety of-
(i) pleasure craft,
(ii) the occupants of pleasure craft, and
(iii) other persons, and of property, from injury or damage caused by, resulting from or arising out of the use of pleasure craft;
(b) that the use of a pleasure craft does not create a disturbance or constitute a nuisance.’,
(b) in subsection (2)(c), by the substitution for ’navigation equipment, and’ of ’navigation equipment,’,
(c) in subsection (2)(d), by the substitution for ’other findings of such surveys,’ of ’other findings of such surveys,’,
(d) in subsection (2), by the insertion of the following after paragraph (d):
'(e) provide for the registration of specified classes of pleasure craft and the licensing or certification of masters or persons in control of or operating pleasure craft or specified classes of pleasure craft,
(f) (i) regulate the use of pleasure craft or specified classes of pleasure craft by reference to the age or other qualifications of masters or persons in control of or operating pleasure craft or pleasure craft of a specified class,
(ii) regulate or prohibit the use of pleasure craft or specified classes of pleasure craft in particular circumstances, and the consumption of alcohol or drugs by masters or persons in control of or operating pleasure craft or pleasure craft of a specified class,
(g) prohibit the use of pleasure craft or specified classes of pleasure craft unless there are in force policies of insurance under which the owners of the pleasure craft or, if the pleasure craft are on hire, the persons to whom they are on hire are insured to a specified extent against specified risks relating to the use of the pleasure craft, and
(h) require and regulate the use of lifejackets on specified classes of pleasure craft.’,
(e) in subsection (4), by the insertion after ’pleasure craft’ of ’or persons on or using pleasure craft’, and
(f) in subsection (5)-
(i) by the insertion after 'master' of 'or persons in charge', and
(ii) by the substitution for '£1,000' and '6 months' of '£1,500' and '12 months' , respectively.
(10) Section 31(1)(a) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended by the insertion after ’grant of a licence’ of ’(including a certificate of registration, licence or certification issued or granted by the Minister under regulations made under this Act)’.
(11) The Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, is amended by the insertion of the following after section 32:
33.-(1) Regulations under section 18, 19 or 20 may provide for a power or function (including the power to prohibit or regulate the use, speed, times of operation and noise output of vessels as specified by the regulations in particular areas or circumstances) to be exercised or performed by a statutory authority or other body (including by the making and enforcement of bye-laws as may be permitted by the regulations) in respect of Irish waters under its control or contiguous to land under its control, and where the exercise or performance of a power or function is so provided for, "authorised officer" when used in this Act or the regulations shall include a person authorised in writing or by bye-law of the statutory authority or other body to exercise in respect of the relevant Irish waters the powers conferred on an authorised officer by or under this Act.
(2) Regulations referred to in subsection (1) may allow a statutory authority or other body to charge a fee of such amount specified in the bye-laws of the authority or body, not exceeding £100, for a certificate of registration, licence or certification issued or granted under such regulations or bye-laws made under or in pursuance of such regulations.
(3) Before making regulations under section 18, 19 or 20 in relation to a statutory authority or other body for which another Minister of the Government has responsibility, the Minister shall consult with that other Minister.
34.-(1) Where regulations made under section 18, 19 or 20 provide that this section shall apply, an authorised officer who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is committing or has committed an offence under section 18, 19 or 20, may serve on the person a notice in the prescribed form stating that -
(a) the person is alleged to have committed the offence,
(b) the person may during the period of 21 days beginning on the date of the notice make to the statutory authority or body concerned at the address specified in the notice a payment of £100 accompanied by the notice, and
(c) a prosecution in respect of the alleged offence will not be instituted during the period specified in the notice and, if the payment specified in the notice is made during that period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence will be instituted.
(2) Where notice is given under subsection (1) -
(a) a person to whom it applies may, during the period specified in the notice, make to the statutory authority or body concerned at the address specified in the notice the payment specified in the notice accompanied by the notice,
(b) the statutory authority or body specified in the notice may receive the payment, issue a receipt for it and retain the money so paid, and any payment so received shall not be recoverable in any circumstances by the person who made it, and
(c) a prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall not be instituted in the period specified in the notice, and if the payment so specified is made during that period, no prosecution in respect of the alleged offence shall be instituted.
(3) In a prosecution for an offence under section 18, 19 or 20 the onus of proving that a payment pursuant to a notice under this section has been made shall lie on the defendant.
(4) The Minister may by regulations vary the amount standing specified for the time being in subsection (1)(b).
(5) In this section "offence under section 18, 19 or 20" includes an offence under regulations or bye-laws made under or in pursuance of those sections.
35.-(1) A person shall not in Irish waters navigate or operate a prescribed vessel or vessel of a prescribed class without due care and attention.
(2) A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months, or to both.
36.-(1) A person shall not in Irish waters navigate or operate a prescribed vessel or vessel of a prescribed class in a manner (including at a speed) which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case (including the condition of the vessel or class of vessel, the nature, condition and use of the waters and the amount of traffic, or number of people, which or who then actually are, or might reasonably be expected then to be, on or in those waters) is dangerous to the public.
(2) A person who, without reasonable excuse, contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and -
(a) where the contravention causes death or serious bodily harm to another person, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to a fine not exceeding £10,000, or to both, and
(b) in any other case, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £1,500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both.
(3) Where, when a person is tried on indictment or summarily for an offence under this section, the jury, or in the case of a summary trial the District Court, is of opinion that the person was not guilty of an offence under this section but was guilty of an offence under section 34, the jury or court may find the person guilty of an offence under that section and the person may be sentenced accordingly.
37.-Any costs of the Minister incurred in or in connection with the prosecution of a person for an offence under section 34 or 35 for which a person is convicted may be recovered by the Minister as a debt due and payable to the Minister by the convicted person.'.".
This amendment proposes changes to the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992.
Amendments are being proposed that will put in place a more structured legislative framework to allow for comprehensive and clear regulation of the safe use of recreational craft. This follows on the recommendations of the action group on small recreational craft which my predecessor established in August 1999 and which formally presented its final report to me on 18 April. The original craft set out in the published Bill was examined by the action group and suggestions made to improve the text. The new text presented to Deputies is drawn up on foot of those suggestions and is a more comprehensive proposal than its original counterpart.
The Merchant Shipping Act, 1992 also contains provisions in respect of certain craft including pleasure craft. However, the term "recreational craft" as used by the action group covers both pleasure craft which are non-commercial vessels and passenger boats -non-commercial vessels carrying 12 or fewer persons as defined in the 1992 Act. These two types of vessels are treated separately in the Act and many of the changes now proposed had to be replicated under each heading to ensure a consistent approach. The 1992 Act already provides for certain regulations to be made but these were found to be inadequate by the action group and the Bill addresses these shortfalls.
The other main shortfall relates to the fact that the current legislation only allows for the making of regulations to cover the safety of the craft in question and its occupants. There is no legislative provision to allow regulations to be made to take account of other persons or property affected by the use of these craft as well as any disturbance or nuisance caused by the craft. The reported irresponsible use of personal watercraft such as jet skies as well as fast powercraft and their impact on the safety of other water users was one of the bases on which the action group was established.
The Bill tackles the legislative shortfalls that have been identified and extends the remit of the provisions to cover them. The general structure of the proposed amendments is based on a twin track approach. First to put in place enabling legislation allowing me as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources to make regulations in respect of issues which are of a horizontal national nature. Such issues include age limits for use of a craft, provisions for carriage, the use of life jackets, etc. Second to empower local authorities, through regulation by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources to make by-laws in respect of their areas of jurisdiction in relation to zoning, speed limits, etc. of recreational craft. This is viewed as a vital element of any overall strategy to regulate the safe use of any recreational craft. I will treat each aspect of this section as it arises in the committee's considerations.
I welcome this substantial amendment. It is basically half of the Bill and that is why we needed some time to look at it. It includes most of the specific points that Deputy Finucane and I raised not only on Second Stage but on other Bills in view of the number of serious accidents, even in my constituency, where people lost their lives. The only matter about which I would be is that if this is left to the local authority to supervise, it will not work. Local authority employees will not work after 4.30 p.m. or 5.00 p.m. Most casualties, particularly in pleasure craft, take place over the holiday period and in particular during the high summer tourism season. In my constituency and in the neighbouring one, thousands of people go on the beaches and out in boats. There will not be anyone present from the local authority. Who will supervise it? Many of us are from constituencies with long coastlines. Who will supervise the coastal area of the Republic and who will pay for it?
I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 29:
In the last line of the new subsection (1)(d), after “hull” to insert “and the user of the personal watercraft will have to be over 16 years of age and attend an authorised training course”.
It was inevitable that a section such as this would have to be stitched into some legislation given the extreme concern about the number of fatalitiesin recent years and the risks posed to swimmers by jetskis which, for a young person, conjure up the image of James Bond moving at 50 miles per hour with water spraying against a blue sky. At such a speed they are lethal machines with the capacity perhaps of a 1200 cc motorbike. They are operated in the main by young persons who have no licence, insurance or experience. It is this aspect which concerns me most. There is a need for regulation, a matter I discussed with Mr. Grace.
The Minister referred to the introduction of age limits. The reason I suggest that the user of such a craft should be over 16 years of age is that this is the age at which one can obtain a provisional driving licence and drive under supervision. One would not drive on the road without first undergoing minimum instruction or a driving test. There are reputable organisations which provide training not only in the use of power craft but also in the use of pleasure craft. It should be an essential component of any regulations in this area that young persons purchasing equipment such as this at a cost of between £4,000 and £10,000 attend an authorised training course.
Deputy Bell is correct in one respect, Fingal County Council has probably been more innovative than other local authorities and in the past the Minister has forwarded a copy of its guidelines to harbour boards. Many local authorities however are critical of the Department of the Environment and Local Government for not providing the extra staff required to meet their extra responsibilities which amount to a financial drain. The question that has to be asked is to what degree will the implementation of regulations and by-laws be supervised? In this context it is extremely important that it be made a requirement to attend a suitable training course leading to certification. In many instances jetskis are operated about one mile offshore. Will they be supervised with a pair of binoculars?
While jetskis are exciting - I saw some being operated over the weekend - there is a need for regulation and control, at least to minimise the number of fatalities and the risks posed to swimmers, the source of much concern in seaside resorts in continental Europe. For example, there was a threat to ban them completely in Greece, the economy of which is heavily dependent on tourism. This highlights the need for stringent control if we are to permit their use here.
I concur with the comments of both Deputies. A comprehensive set of regulations is being introduced. While the Bill enables local authorities to make by-laws - this is sensible - it is important to ensure a degree of uniformity. There is no question but that the regulations are long overdue. As Deputy Bell is only too well aware the catalyst was a tragic accident in Dundalk.
Local authorities may appoint authorised officers in whatever way they deem suitable. The Bill identifies a number of areas in which they will be involved, including harbour commissioners, fisheries boards and navigation authorities. Gardaí will also be authorised officers. I do not envisage therefore that we will find ourselves in a situation where nobody will be available from 5 p.m. on a Friday until the following Monday morning. There will be adequate cover. It will be for local authorities to ensure staff of the various organisations involved, statutory or otherwise, will be available.
I am keen to ensure the involvement of clubs and other sporting bodies which act responsibly. They welcome the fact that an effort is being made to improve safety regulations and standards. There is ample evidence that most of the difficulties are being caused by those who are not members of clubs and who have not received the recognised training. They are cowboys who purchase the craft in question to enjoy the sensation of sun, sea and speed. They are totally irresponsible and immune to the interests of fishermen, swimmers and those who use small rowing boats.
I take Deputy Finucane's point that there is a need for proper training in the use of the craft in question, a matter I discussed in the last week with some of the sporting clubs involved. There is scope for further initiatives in this respect. The adventure sports associations and others do very good work providing training leading to certification. They are most anxious to be involved.
All these very important matters will be highlighted in the implementation of the Bill and regulations. The best authorised officers will be the responsible users of the craft in question and their clubs which do not want to tolerate the cowboys which give their sport a bad name.
I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed by the Minister. While we all aspire to achieve those objectives, in my area Meath County Council is responsible for one side of the river, Drogheda Port Company is reponsible for the middle portion while Louth County Council is responsible for the remainder up to Carlingford. All their staff finish work at 5 p.m. at the latest on a Friday. I am normally an optimistic person but if the Minister expects them to be in a position to supervise any regulations issued under this section of the Bill I wish him good luck. Having served in local authorities for almost 26 years, I know there is no chance of this happening. There is a need for enforcement.
In the first instance the regulations provide for harmonisation of common areas between local authorities. The Deputy is being a little disingenuous; the staff employed by local authorities, including lifeguards, do good work. It is also important to note that a local authority may authorise a person, other than a staff member, to act on its behalf. Persons are employed over weekends in various tasks for local authorities, harbour boards, fisheries boards and so on and the Garda take reports from the public where there are breaches of the law. This regulation will be a major deterrent. We are not trying to be spoilsports and do not wish to ruin the enjoyment of those who enjoy these crafts. Nevertheless we want to ensure the safety element.
Zoning would be significant to ensure those fast craft cannot be used adjacent to a beach where people are swimming. As Deputy Finucane said, young people cannot be in charge if they are not in a controlled training environment and should not be under the influence of alcohol while driving those fast craft at up 50 miles per hour. There are many preventative measures in the regulations. I take the point that there will have to be proper policing and vigilance and I am satisfied that will happen. There are many organisations right across the spectrum in local areas interested in ensuring the regulations are applied.
May I have the agreement of the committee that Deputy Brady would take the Chair for a brief period?
Deputy J. Brady took the Chair.
I accept what the Minister has said. He is probably aware that the Irish Sailing Association has suitable courses on the use of power boats and pleasure craft. The basic training course of a few hours duration costs in the region of £50 to £70. Even after a short course one goes out with some experience. It is in the interests of those who sell jetskis commercially that regulations and controls be put in place, otherwise, as in the past, there will be casualties. There may be pressure from another quarter later seeking to ban jetskis.
I agree with the idea of personal liberty and that people are going out to enjoy themselves. If regulations are introduced they should not be flouted. I am optimistic that if the regulations were in place and people knew about them, and there was suitable training, the position would improve considerably. Given the buoyant economy and more disposable income, more people are purchasing these pleasure craft. Controls are important. I take it the Minister has a minimum age in mind for use of these pleasure craft. I assume it is not envisaged that a person of 13 or 14 years of age would drive such craft at over 50 miles per hour.
No. We will come to the Deputy's amendment later.
The regulations will deal with this issue. I agree with the Deputy's concerns. First, those craft will have to be registered. I emphasise that it is not intended as a mechanism for collecting money. It will simply be an identification registration. Second, those using craft will have to produce a certificate of competency. Third, there will be a requirement to have insurance. I have no doubt the insurers will ensure they have a certificate of competency and have participated in a proper training regime to enable them use those craft. A series of mechanisms have been put in place which responsible people are already using. Given the phenomenal increase in the number using those craft, there is a need for proper training to ensure safety and responsible use.
Is amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 29 withdrawn?
The Minister said he would respond to that specific amendment.
The text in subsection (1)(d) is a definition for personal watercraft which are more commonly known as jetskis. This definition follows international standards and is in line with the definition for such craft which is proposed for inclusion shortly in amendments to the EU Directive 94/25 on recreational craft. The purpose of inserting the definition into the 1992 Act is to ensure an end to any doubts that a personal watercraft would not be considered to be a vessel for the purposes of the Act. It is my intention to introduce statutory regulations as a result of the powers conferred on me as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources under this Bill. These regulations will, among other things, address the issues of age limits, training and user competence in respect of persons operating such craft. In particular, I would draw attention to the new subsection (2)(g) of section 18 and subsection (2)(f) of section 20 which are being proposed. These deal specifically with regulating the use of vessels such as passenger boats and pleasure craft by reference to the age and other qualifications of persons operating such vessels. While I do not propose to accept the amendment put forward by the Deputy I assure him the principle of his proposal has already been accepted and will be fully incorporated in the statutory regulations which I shall introduce as soon as possible. I have no difficulty with the suggestion that the user of the personal watercraft should be over 16 years of age.
The reason I suggested 16 is that that is the age at which one can get a provisional driving licence.
No, it is 17.
Is it 17?
Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 are related and may be taken together by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 23, before the Schedule, to insert the following new section:
"44.-The Minister may, from time to time, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, advance to a person, out of monies provided by the Oireachtas, for the purposes of marine or natural resource based tourism or heritage projects, such sums, by way of grant or loan, as the Minister may determine and upon such terms and conditions as he or she considers necessary.".
On 22 February 2000 the Government agreed the funding of the Dunbrody famine ship project to completion subject to a number of conditions. However, doubts have been raised by the Attorney General's office regarding the powers the Minister has to make grants or loans for this or similar purposes. A similar situation has arisen with regard to the future expenditure of moneys already allocated to a natural resource heritage and possibly to moneys already allocated to marine based tourism projects. Under the national development plan total of £20 million, £3 million has been allocated for 2000. To clarify the position and to ensure any lingering doubts are removed I am introducing the amendment on Committee Stage to provide for these powers.
Until now the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the Marine Institute did not have the power to give specific grants towards marinas and such requests were referred to the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport. Based on the amendment, am I correct in concluding that this is the first time the Minister can grant aid marinas?
We can give grant aid to marinas.
In that event I had better get in touch with Foynes Yacht Club.
I would be interested in that because there are a number of projects under this heading. Does this mean that effectively the Minister's Department would pay grants directly and it will not be administered through any other agency of his Department? Will the Department make the payment based on the submission from the applicant?
Yes, but this is part of a new section of our Department, marine tourism. We want to develop marine tourism and we can make grant payments directly or we can make them through an agency.
Up to now the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources was supportive. For example, when it was working on Kilmore Quay it also did a bit of dredging. When dredging work was being done on Foynes Harbour recently, a little work was done also to the marina, but it was all on a nod and wink basis. The work would be done if a dredger was in the area. I welcome this measure because it legitimises the Department for assisting people who would do this in future.
It is important to point out, as an aside, that the significant potential of the marine tourism sector has not been exploited to any degree. The establishment of a new section and the provision of £20 million under the national development plan is significant. In the small amount of development that has taken place, for example in Dingle, it has proved to be a very good return on the investment. Over the coming months, one will not be able to get near the marina in Dingle because of the number of French yachts moored there. The whole idea is to develop a policy whereby we can develop marinas in a necklace around the coast and encourage more high spending tourists to visit our fantastic coastline in their yachts. I see great potential in that area.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 5, lines 15 and 16, to delete ", THE AMENDMENT OF THE SEA POLLUTION ACT, 1991," and substitute "AND OTHER VESSELS, THE AMENDMENT OF THE SEA POLLUTION ACT, 1991, THE ADVANCE OF MONEYS BY THE MINISTER FOR THE MARINE AND NATURAL RESOURCES FOR MARINE OR NATURAL RESOURCE BASED TOURISM OR HERITAGE PROJECTS,".