Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 5 Jul 1990

Vol. 401 No. 2

Sea Pollution Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

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

Cuireann sé áthas agus — focail níos láidre — gliondar croí orm an Bille seo a chur os comhair na Dáil ag an am seo. Tá a fhios ag an Teach go bhfuil clár cuimsitheach násiúnta don chomhshaol fógraithe ag mo chara, an tAire Comhshaoil, cheana féin, agus mar atá a fhios ag an Teach freisin, tá Comhdháil na hEorpa anseo i Baile Átha Cliath tar éis sórt rosc catha, an rosc catha is fiúntaí ar bith, a chur amach ar chúrsaí comhshaoil san Eoraip.

In the context of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, having declared Ireland's Presidency of the EC to be a Green Presidency, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to bring before the House this Bill, the Sea Pollution Bill.

The Environment Action Programme includes a commitment to terminate indiscriminate disposal of ships' waste in the marine environment; this Bill endorses that commitment by addressing the problems relating to protection of the marine environment from pollution by ships. I look forward to constructive and thorough consideration of the Bill. Initially, I propose to give a short background to the Bill. The Oil Pollution of the Sea Act, 1956, gave effect to the first multilateral instrument on protection of the marine environment, namely the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954. The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1965, gave effect to certain amendments to the 1954 convention. The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1977, gave effect to further amendments to the 1954 Convention and to the International Convention relating to Intervention on the High Seas in cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, 1969.

Ireland attended the Diplomatic Conference held by the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation — IMCO, subsequently re-named International Maritime Organisation, IMO — which adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 and signed the convention, subject to ratification, in 1974.

The Protocol relating to Intervention on the High Seas in cases of Marine Pollution by Substances other than Oil, 1973, was adopted at the same conference. Thereby, it was hoped that the objective of complete elimination of intentional pollution of the marine environment by oil and other harmful substances and the minimisation of accidental discharges of such substances would be achieved.

The expression "MARPOL 73/78" emerged following the adoption of a protocol of 1978 which made minor modifications to the 1973 Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

The main purpose of the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990, is to up-date existing legislation on the prevention of pollution from ships and on intervention with ships following upon a maritime casualty, as enshrined in our Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts, 1956 to 1977. These Acts govern pollution by oil but we all know that as the world becomes more industrialised more dangerous substances being transported by sea are polluting the marine environment. Our legislation must also take cognisance of current trends in the shipping industry, namely, the dramatic increase in the size of ships, in particular of oil tankers; the "lame ducks" in an ageing world fleet; the emergence of offshore registries and Third World low-cost crews; the reduction in manning levels due to modern technology and performance pressures from shipowners or managers. Ireland's geographical location on the periphery of Europe with the Atlantic Ocean lying to the west, south-west and south and at the apex of one of the busiest ocean-trading routes in the world leaves her vulnerable to maritime casualties. We must also remember that it is our relatively unpolluted waters that attract foreign tourists to this country. We must endeavour to avoid casualties occuring in our territorial waters; the resulting pollution of our waters and blight of our shore environment with wrecks must be avoided.

In order to prevent or control pollution that may be caused by ships the State's powers need to be strengthened. The international treaty, commonly known as MARPOL 73/78, considered to be the most ambitious international treaty covering marine pollution ever adopted and the international treaties on intervention on the high seas give the scope to do so. We are indebted to the International Maritime Organisation for the adoption of the treaties in question. The IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations, wholly dedicated to maritime affairs and with the twin goals of cleaner oceans and safer seas.

The question Deputies may wish to ask is, "Why the need to become party to further international treaties?" The answers are simple. The conventions, protocols and resolutions of the IMO reflect the concerns and interests of over 130 states; the IMO is the international body which has developed the "rules of the road" as it were, for the high seas and commands the respect and recognition to press for universal acceptance of these rules. Ireland needs the support of such an organisation in its endeavours to protect its marine environment from pollution from ships and the disposal of ships' wastes at sea.

The main objective of MARPOL 73/78 is to reduce to a minimum, and in certain instances prohibit, the operational discharge of marine pollutants from ships, through the establishment of operational discharge criteria and procedures, and construction and equipment standards. Provision is made for a regime whereby violations of the international rules and standards are prohibited and punished with sufficient severity to discourage future violations.

The convention itself comprises five annexes which are, effectively, the regulations laid down for the prevention of pollution by oil; by noxious liquid substances in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged forms or in freight containers, portable tanks or road and rail tank wagons; by sewage from ships and garbage from ships.

Each annex deals exclusively with all aspects of its subject pollutant such as vessel construction and equipment, survey, certification, discharge control and reception facilities to be provided at ports for disposal of waste.

All countries which become party to MARPOL 73/78 must adopt Annexes 1 and 2 relating to oil and noxious liquid substances in bulk, respectively; Annexes 3, 4 and 5-relating to harmful substances in packaged forms, sewage and garbage are optional. Acceptance of Annexes 1 and 2 is obligatory because of the more deleterious effects of oil and noxious liquid substances. Liability and compensation for pollution damage caused by discharges of persistent oil from a ship carrying oil in bulk as cargo, or discharges from its bunkers, are covered by the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) Act, 1988. We are adopting all five.

The Intervention treaties provide that, following a maritime casualty, contracting parties may take such measures on the high seas as may be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to their coastline or related interests from pollution, or threat of pollution, by oil and other substances which are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities, or to interefere with other legitimate uses of the sea.

MARPOL 73/78, its Annexes, 1 oil, 2 noxious liquid substances, and 5 garbage from ships, and the Intervention Convention and Protocol are in force internationally. Annexes, 3 harmful substances in packaged forms and 4 sewage from ships which are optional, will not come into force internationally until they have been ratified or acceded to by countries representing over 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet. Current ratification or accession to these two instruments stands at approximately 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, for world shipping tonnage.

The principal provisions of the Bill are as follows: section 10 enables the Minister to prohibit or regulate the operational discharge of oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances carried in bulk — for example hazardous chemicals — harmful substances carried in packaged forms, sewage or garbage from Irish-registered ships anywhere at sea and from other ships whilst in the territorial waters of the State. The Minister may apply similar controls to other substances prescribed by him as being harmful, if introduced into the marine environment and he may require the owner or master of a ship to notify him of the intention to load or unload any of these substances in the State.

Section 12 enables the Minister to require harbours in the State to have adequate facilities for the discharge or disposal of ships' waste. Harbours may make reasonable charges and impose reasonable conditions for use of the facilities provided.

Sections 14 and 15 enable the Minister to require an Irish registered ship to be constructed, fitted or operated in such a way as to prevent, control or reduce discharges into the sea and to keep such records of discharges of harmful substances as he prescribes. Such records would relate to operations on board ship in respect of any substance, discharges made to secure the safety of the ship or to save life or discharges in excess of the quantity, if any, permitted.

Section 17 enables the Minister to have surveyors of ships, or inspectors appointed by him under warrant, to carry out surveys, inspections and tests to ensure compliance with MARPOL standards laid down by him for ships, their equipment and fittings. He may also cause to be issued in respect of a ship a certificate of compliance with requirements.

Section 23 permits a harbour master to refuse entry into a harbour if he believes a ship not to be in compliance with certificate requirements or to be a serious threat to the environment, the harbour or other ships. This section also enables the Minister to require the owners or masters of all ships, or any classes of ship, to give notice of entry or intended entry into Irish territorial waters.

Section 26 permits the Minister, following upon a maritime casualty, to take such measures as he considers necessary, to prevent, mitigate or eliminate grave and imminent danger to the coastline or related interests for example, fisheries activities or tourist attractions, from pollution or a threat of pollution. The Minister is entitled to recover expenses incurred in such intervention from the owner of the ship.

Section 29 lays down the penalties for breach of the requirements of the Bill, when enacted, or any regulations made thereunder. Penalties range from a maximum of £1,000 or imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both, on summary conviction and a maximum of £10 million or imprisonment up to five years, or both, on conviction on indictment.

Parts II and III of the Bill which deal with prevention of pollution and enforcement are fundamentally the framework within which regulations to give effect to the five MARPOL Annexes will be effected.

Parts I and IV deal with the more standard provisions of a Bill. Section 4 of Part I provides for the exemption of warships from the scope of the Act. This is in keeping with both the MARPOL and Intervention Conventions and our own Oil Pollution of the Sea Act, 1956. Foreign naval vessels are entitled under international law to transit the territorial waters of another state in exercise of a right of innocent passage. Specific authorisation to exercised this right or to give notification that it has been exercised is not necessary. However, where a foreign naval vessel wishes to visit an Irish port the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is necessary before the visit can take place. Permission is normally granted provided the visit does not form part of a naval exercise and nuclear weapons are not being carried.

There has been an enormous increase in environmental awareness and concern for the environment over the past few years, particularly among the yonger generation. In the marine area attention is being focused on the threat to the environment and to fish stocks and mammals of pollution from ships in the form of oil discharges and persistent forms of garbage, in particular plastics, including synthetic ropes and fishing nets and refuse bags. These pollutants are offensive from an aesthetic point of view as they come ashore with the tide and spoil beaches and beauty spots on the coastline. They are also offensive from an economic point of view in that they affect local fishing and aquaculture industries as well as tourism, water-based leisure activities and public amenities generally.

Marine environmental awareness was heightened this year with the launch of the Government's Environment Action Programme and the commitment to require harbour authorities to install facilities for receiving ships' waste and thus enable Ireland to become a party to the MARPOL Convention. Facilities must be adequate to meet the needs of the ships using them without causing undue delay. The issue of a poster by the Department of the Marine in conjunction with the Wildlife Service at the end of 1989 to schools as well as to shipping and fisheries interests and which illustrated the cruel, harmful and oftentimes fatal effects of plastics on fish and marine mammals further highlighted the hazards of ships' waste.

I have a copy of that poster, which has proved very effective, with me and I will just show it to the House. It is a good quality poster and contains four illustrations of the damage done by waste in the sea. The picture in the top left hand corner is of a discarded net and the caption reads "This discarded net has finished fishing, but it hasn't finished killing". The picture in the top right hand corner of beach detritus also illustrates how noisome and filthy the kind of stuff being thrown on beaches is. The picture in the bottom left hand corner — this is a common one — illustrates plastic strangling a fish. In this instance it is the plastic rings which attach to six packs. We can see that it does damage in a way one would never suspect. The picture in the bottom right hand corner illustrates plastic being eaten as it resembles natural food in water. Of course this kills the fish. The reaction we got was very good and indicates that it helped the campaign with regard to the control of waste and pollutants generally. It is not surprising, therefore, that MARPOL has come to be associated with garbage from ships and that the younger generation speak quite knowledgeably of Annex 5 which relates to the prevention of pollution from garbage.

MARPOL strictly prohibits the disposal of plastics at sea; they must be deposited in receptacled at port. As the House is aware, plastics are non-biodegradable; once thrown into the sea they are extremely persistent and potentially harmful if ingested by seabirds and marine mammals. They also cause fish to choke when they eat them. In framing regulations under the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990 to cover Annex 5 the disposal of plastics at sea will be prohibited. Stringent conditions will apply to the discharge and ultimate disposal of other wastes from ships, in particular food waste. The ultimate disposal of discharged waste must be undertaken with regard to wider concerns. In disposing of oily residues every effort will be made to ensure recycling and the disposal of food waste or "swill" must take place within the requirements of the animal diseases regulations of the Department of Agriculture. In compliance with the Environment Action Programme and in anticipation of the passage of the new legislation commercial and fishery harbours have been asked to provide, as I have mentioned, reception facilities to meet the demands of ship and fishing vessel operators coming into port. Consultations with Irish shipping interests are also ongoing with a view to ascertaining their requirements.

There are other very important benefits accruing from passage of the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990. At the top of the list must be the State's enhanced powers to deal with offending foreign ships coming into its territorial waters. Masters of ships which are not constructed, equipped or operated to MARPOL standards will not be anxious to risk inspection, detention and penalty for unseaworthiness or deficiencies. This could have the effect of reducing the number of damaged vessels seeking refuge in ports off our south-west and north-west coasts.

I should at this stage make it clear that the Bill before the House does not cut across my Department's policy in search and rescue. Safety of life at sea still remains paramount and it may be necessary at times to admit troubled ships into territorial waters or harbours for the purpose of saving life. Section 11 of the Bill permits discharge into the sea of harmful substances where it is necessary for the purpose of saving life at sea. However, a record must be kept of such a discharge. The House will recall the trouble with the Tribulus earlier this year and, if I may say so, my Department handled that matter very well as did Shell, who own the Tribulus.

Equally important will be the benefit to Irish shipowners. By virtue of holding MARPOL certificates they will no longer be embarrassed by subjection to stringent inspection and delay while in MARPOL Convention countries; any such inspection will now be limited to verifying that there is on board a valid MARPOL certificate. Ireland is the only EC maritime member state and the only state party to the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control not to have ratified or acceded to MARPOL 73/78. Under this memorandum of understanding each of the 14 member states undertakes to achieve an annual total of inspections of foreign-registered ships entering its ports corresponding to 25 per cent of individual merchant ships. Inspection ensures compliance with the standards laid down in a number of international conventions including the MARPOL Convention.

Ireland will also be assured of the co-operation of other parties to the MARPOL Convention and the International Maritime Organisation in the detection of violations, the enforcement of rules, environmental monitoring and accumulation of evidence against offenders.

The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Amendment) Act, 1977, empowers the Minister to take such action as he considers necessary in relation to a ship or its cargo for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating the effects of oil pollution arising from a maritime casualty. The Minister may only exercise these powers in respect of an Irish-registered ship anywhere at sea; any other ship while in the territorial waters of the State or, following a Government Order, any ship registered in a country which is party to the Intervention Convention, 1969, while outside the territorial waters of the State. The Minister must exercise his powers of intervention with discretion. There must be grave and imminent danger of major harmful consequences through pollution by oil to the coastline or related interests. Where a stricken ship is not carrying oil as cargo there must be sufficient threat of danger from bunker or fuel oil to justify intervention. Where it can be established in the case of an Irish-registered ship or any other ship while in the territorial waters of the State that intervention was unreasonable then compensation must be paid.

The Minister used his powers of intervention early in 1989 when the 85,000 ton bulk carrier Yarrawonga, having lost 300 square metres of steel side plating in mid-Atlantic, was abandoned by its crew. Similarly — I mentioned this already — he intervened in February of this year with the holed 122,000 ton bulk carrier Tribulus which limped into Bantry Bay leaking heavy fuel oil. Bantry Bay is now very much involved in mussel farming and that did constitute a grave danger. It was a situation that was handled extremely well.

The Bill before the House strengthens the Minister's powers considerably. The threat of pollution may be from any harmful substance, intervention may be made anywhere at sea and only in the case of Irish-registered and Intervention Convention country-registered ships while in the territorial waters of the State may a case of unreasonable intervention be entertained.

The Bill before the House takes account of lessons learned from past disasters, namely, the need for legislation requiring the owner of a ship to compensate the Minister for expenses of/or incidental to any action taken by him to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger from pollution or a threat of pollution from that ship and the need to have penalties for offences commensurate with damage done. It is intended that clean-up costs would be recoverable by the Minister. At first glance £10 million maximum penalty for conviction on indictment may seem unrealistic or excessive, but when one considers the extent of damage that may be caused by marine pollution it is justifiable. I need hardly remind the House of the $1 billion plus bill which followed the Exxon Valdez 11 million gallon crude oil spill in Alaska last year.

The remainder of the Bill before the House is concerned with the strengthening of the powers of inspectors — section 21 — and harbour masters — section 25 — in the detection of unauthorised or alleged discharges, defective ships or equipment and standard provisions which are self-explanatory. Section 5 provides that every regulation made under the proposed legislation shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. There will be an opportunity, therefore, for all Deputies to consider the precise terms of the regulations to give effect to the five annexes to the MARPOL Convention.

It has long been held that Ireland should have a compulsory vessel reporting or notification system for all ships entering Irish waters. Such a system is currently in force in respect of fishing trawlers registered in Spain and Portugal, for a transitional period, and in non-EC countries when entering Community waters under Irish control.

The system would be beneficial in protecting the marine environment and also in detecting undesirable ships or cargoes or on security grounds. Section 23 of the Bill enables the Minister to set up such a system should he consider it necessary and enforceable. Alternatively, a system whereby certain classes of ship which are a potential threat to the marine environment — for example, oil tankers — might be required to give advance notification of entry into Irish territorial waters could be considered.

I must say that the Bill before the House is one that will play a vital role in protecting the State's clean marine environmental heritage.

Molaim go léifear an Bille don Dara Uair agus tá súil agam go rachaidh sé chun sochair don tír iomlán.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Bhille seo and I compliment the Minister for bringing it before the House. As the Minister has stated, this legislation brings into being the five annexes to the MARPOL Convention. Already over 40 states throughout the world have implemented this treaty known as MARPOL. We are the last of the EC member states to do so. As an island state it is extremely important that this Bill gets a quick passage through the House. As an island nation we are very vulnerable in the north west Atlantic where we are on route for major seagoing vessels. Over the years and, indeed, in the recent past large oil tankers and other large carriers have got into difficulties off our coastline. As a result we have been put under serious threat and in some instances damage has resulted to our coastline.

In his speech the Minister referred to an aged fleet and vessels which are much larger than they were in the past. In addition, as has recently been proven in the case of the Tribulus and the Yarrowonga, relatively young vessels constructed within the last decade have shown major features of flawed construction and have proved incapable of coping with the weather elements with which they were confronted during the course of storm difficulties in the North Atlantic. I hope the Minister for the Marine would use his influence at EC, and at other levels in the United Nations, to ensure that a greater degree of examination is carried out to the international construction of ships and the durability and quality of materials used in the large bulk carriers of all types. In relation to the most recent difficulties that arose off our coasts it is true to say — I think the Minister said it at that time in the House — that there were difficulties regarding the materials used and the ability of the ships to withstand those difficulties. That is a matter, over and above what is contained in this Bill, that must be under constant vigilance. Because we are in a vulnerable position it is of particular interest to us.

This is enabling legislation rather than a Bill giving statutory authority. My main criticism is that the Bill merely enables the Minister to make regulations subsequently rather than giving him statutory powers. When the Minister is considering the various regulations I hope he will take the opportunity of discussing the details with the Opposition spokespersons. While appreciating the good intent on the part of the Minister and his Department we can all learn from consultation with others.

The first Part of the Bill is fairly technical but there is one section within Part I, section 4, which exempts any warship or any ship for the time being used by the Government of any country for purposes other than commercial purposes. I am concerned about that exemption. It is well accepted that around our coasts there are a number of warships engaging in exercises many of which, if not all, are nuclear-powered. I had hoped that the provisions of this Bill would give the Minister power to prevent nuclear-powered ships entering into or engaging in exercises in our territorial waters. I am extremely disappointed that the general nuclear area has not been addressed by the provisions of this Bill:

There are five annexes to the MARPOL Convention covering the prevention of pollution by oil, noxious liquid substances, sewage and garbage being disposed of by ships, but no provision at all in relation to the disposal of nuclear effluent in waters around our coast. That is indeed unfortunate. It would be my hope that the Minister and his Department would address that matter before Committee Stage.

I am concerned that the provisions of section 4 exempt any warship or any ship being used for purposes other than commercial ones. We hear constantly reports of Russian nuclear-powered warships, of German submarines and others engaging in exercises around our coastline, some fitted with old reactors carrying the constant danger of their sinking or of the defective reactor not giving sufficient warning. Of course, we know what would be the consequences of a major tragedy, which is indeed something against which we need protection. While the other areas are extremely important the combined effect of all of the five annexes would be minimal in comparison with the overall effect of any accident involving a nuclear-powered ship. This is a contingency we must address. While we do not have the manpower, defence force or requisite monitoring equipment to detect exactly what is taking place in the waters around our coast, we need protection. There must be some means by which we can be afforded such protection, whether through the EC, the United Nations or whoever. I would appeal to the Minister to have this aspect examined urgently.

Part II of the Bill is the most important part dealing with the prevention of pollution at sea because it will give statutory effect to the provisions of the five annexes to the MARPOL Convention, specifying and clearly detailing the relevant regulations. In particular it deals with the regulations pertaining to ships generally or indeed to any class of ship. I wondered whether, in the regulations the Minister intends bringing before the House, he will include all types of sea-going vessels; for example, whether there will be exemptions in respect of smaller, pleasure-type craft, or what categories of ship he intends including.

I am concerned at the overall use of the phrase "the Minister may by regulations ..." affording the Minister an option with regard to the making of any such regulations. There are so many opportunities being afforded the Minister to make such regulations under this Bill it would be my hope that, when responding, he would enlighten the House as to when he intends introducing such regulations.

I note that the side note on section 11 reads: "Saver for discharges in certain circumstances". I fully appreciate the reason for the inclusion of this section, in particular with regard to the saving of life at sea, the safe passages of ships and so on. Nonetheless I wonder what monitoring system will be devised by the Department to ensure that the provisions of this section and the relevant regulations are complied with? What mechanism will be available to the Minister or his Department to assess the amount of any effluent or material discharged from any ship? It appears to me that the Minister will be dependent solely on the honour and honesty of people on board any ship and on any report they may submit. That is not entirely satisfactory from our point of view. The problem is that the ocean is so large that it can conceal any number of offenders. That is a fact we must face. Unless one can be absolutely sure of the overall integrity of seagoing people one is dependent solely on goodwill, which is not satisfactory. There is a need on the part of our Government, and within the EC overall, to deploy the requisite manpower and sea-going vessels to assess that type of contingency and report thereon to the Department of the Marine.

The sidenote to section 14 reads "Equipment, etc., of ships to prevent pollution". I wonder where are the technical or nautical experts within the Department of the Marine who can monitor shipping construction. For example, under the provisions of section 14 will the Minister hire people from outside his Department to carry out such assessment, to draw up the necessary report in relation to changed equipment on a ship, or what does he propose doing in this respect? I appreciate that the personnel within his Department are doing a very good job within the resources available but we must recognise that those resources are extremely limited. I am not aware of marine engineers being employed within the Department who would be competent to carry out the necessary assessments under the provisions of that section. Such assessment is vital.

Section 17 (1) reads:

The Minister, in order to establish that any ship or class of ship complies with the requirements of regulations under section 14, may by regulations require that any ship of such class as may be specified in the regulations, its equipment and fittings be surveyed, inspected or tested in such manner and at such times as may be prescribed.

For that purpose will the Minister be employing staff, say, independent consultants outside his Department, or what does he envisage doing in regard to those provisions?

While I appreciate the general good intent of the Bill I am concerned about the Department's ability to implement its various provisions. When replying I would hope the Minister would explain what exactly he has in mind.

Also in section 17 there is reference to change in structure, equipment and fittings being surveyed, inspected or tested in such manner and at such times as may be prescribed. The five annexes to the MARPOL Convention clearly cover a total change of usage of any ship, or of any material or substantial change of usage. The section does not outline specifically what type of change is envisaged or specify how major or minor such change must be before it must be recertified by the Department in order to comply with the MARPOL Convention.

Section 26 (1) reads:

Subject to subsection (6), the Minister or any person authorised by him (an "authorised person") may for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating danger from pollution or threat of pollution by oil, or by any substance other than oil as defined in subsection (10), following upon a maritime casualty or acts related to such a casualty, give such directions as seem to him to be appropriate to—

Does the Minister envisage circumstances in which the system at present in place within the EC, involving the operation of a co-ordination unit, will obtain under the provisions of this section? Does the Minister propose using that? What co-operation is in existence at the moment with the EC? As a member state it is important that we make a co-ordinated efort with the EC on this matter. The MARPOL Convention is put to very fine effect in the United States where there is a very effective coastguard operation with specific and definite powers under the MARPOL Convention to control the situation and bring ships to order in a very definite fashion. Within the EC we do not have the same type of powers to put the MARPOL Convention into operation. Is the Minister aware of any co-ordinated action to put in place a similar type of operation to enforce this Bill? It is vitally important to have such powers because in the United States the major offenders in relation to marine pollution were the United States Navy itself. Since the MARPOL Convention was put into operation the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of garbage that has been kept out of the ocean as a result has been quite significant, not just from the Navy but also from merchant and commercial shipping. We in Europe do not have that same type of implementation and that is unfortunate. I hope the Minister will review this matter seriously.

The fishing community are very appreciative of the marine resources around this country and have a respect for the sea and what is stands for. There is an onus on the Minister, however, to outline to the fishing community the difficulties and dangers that can arise when some of the gear and equipment they use is lost at sea. I speak particularly of derelict gill nets and other fishing gear made from plastic. I would like to compliment the Department on the poster they circulated before Christmas because it highlights the type of damage plastic can do to marine life. Plastic is a threat not alone to marine life but to human life at sea, for instance, if it gets caught in propellers putting seacraft out of action and leading, in turn, to loss of life. The difficulty of plastic is that it is such a strong, durable, buoyant and lightweight material immune to the natural process of decay. It is particularly dangerous to marine life, including fish, sea birds and all types of sea mammals. Birds or fish ingest it; it gets stuck in their stomachs and results in them not being able to eat. In some cases it has been proven that birds that have swallowed plastic pellets have subsequently become so buoyant that they were not able to dive for food and subsequently died from starvation. The amount of destruction that plastic can bring about is quite frightening; that is something that many people do not appreciate. It is something that people on pleasure boats and on major passenger ships at sea should be made aware of.

The deepening of the waters and the bringing of major passenger liners into Cork makes it important to heighten the awareness of people in relation to the disposal of all types of garbage, particularly plastic garbage, and the inherent difficulties that can arise from this. We are talking about a danger to marine life and a danger to human life. One is talking, in the long term, about a reduction in the numbers of people who will be able to make a livelihood from the sea if the very life at sea is reduced or seriously damaged. This is something we all have a great interest in.

In relation to the dumping of plastics at sea and the subsequent washing of this onto the shore the result is very unsightly scenes around the shorelines of Ireland and Europe. This is extremely unfortunate, particularly in Ireland, where we claim to have a clean environment. Tourism could be put in jeopardy by dirty beaches which have become dirty not because of the negligence of the natives but of people out at sea. This could cause difficulties in relation to promoting a tourism product at a time when we are hoping to create more employment within the tourism sector. This is an area where we must be vigilant.

There is also the question of plastics in relation to sewage disposal. I wonder if the Department of the Marine are liaising with the Department of the Environment in relation to the disposal of these plastics. The sewage is being pumped out into the sea and automatically there is plastic going out into the sea and subsequently coming back to shore, and that is posing an aesthetic problem for coastal residents and visitors. This must be addressed. The Department of the Environment have particular responsibility for sewage disposal and must be notified of the difficulties that can arise for marine life because of this. I hope the Minister for the Marine will take this matter up with his counterpart, the Minister for the Environment, because it can be quite an unsightly and unacceptable problem in some areas.

We are hoping to have an environment protection agency in place here soon. We are talking about a Bill that deals with sea pollution and within that area we are talking about the continental shelf. The continental shelf is extremely important to us here. Much exploration work is going on out on the continental shelf and the Department of Energy have particular responsibility for that. It is important that the Minister for the Marine should liaise again with the Minister for Energy to ensure that the MARPOL convention is put into place by the Department of Energy, particularly when they are issuing exploration licences to the various companies for gas or oil exploration to ensure that the conditions laid down by MARPOL 5 are fully complied with. The Minister did not mention this and it is not covered in the Bill. I would appeal to the Minister to bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Energy.

The Department of Defence is not mentioned. I particularly refer to this in relation to the implementation of the Bill and of the MARPOL Convention. The Bill itself is good. It provides the Minister with the power to introduce the regulations but, in the final analysis, how do we actually implement all these regulations? I am concerned about that and particularly about the enforcement procedure that we as a nation will have. I am concerned that the Navy, which would have the sole responsibility for enforcement, might not have the manpower to enforce what is necessary. Have the Government considered setting up a joint committee of the Departments of Energy, the Environment, Marine and Defence? There is need for such a committee in relation to the implementation of this Bill. In the final analysis, if we are going to implement the five Annexes to the MARPOL Convention we will have to depend on the expertise of the Department of Defence together with the Department of the Marine. It is important that there is continuing contact between these Departments, otherwise the Bill will be like much of the legislation that has been put through this House in the past, legislation on the Statute Book but not implemented, and that would be highly undesirable.

Section 4 deals with compensation and procedures to be adopted when taking legal action against the offending parties. I hope it will be possible to bring an offender before the courts. I would appeal to the Minister to ensure that this legislation can be implemented. The Bill is welcome and has been requested by many people for quite a long time. It addresses many of the difficulties that arise in relation to marine pollution. The most glaring omission relates to nuclear disposal into the sea, particularly in relation to Sellafield. That matter, as well as the question of nuclear submarines and nuclear power vessels, should be addressed. I hope the Minister will comment on that matter when replying to Second Stage. We in Fine Gael welcome the Bill and hope it will have a quick passage through the House.

I welcome the Sea Pollution Bill which is before the House today. It is a long overdue measure whose main purpose is to ratify the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Shipping, 1973. It also proposes to modify that convention, allowing Ireland as a nation to accede to the protocol relating to intervention on the high seas in cases of marine pollution by substances other than oil.

When I was elected to this House, I asked the Minister for the Marine when would this country sign the MARPOL Agreement and he said in about 12 months time. He lived up to that promise and brought the measure before the House, and I compliment him on that. I felt this country did not take seriously the threat of pollution to our coastal waters and marine life and the serious damage that could be done to the environment for hundreds of years to come. There is now a growing awareness among the public that the seas surrounding our coasts are vitally important to us as a nation. If we wish to survive and prosper, it is very important that we prevent pollution of our coasts.

At present our seas are relatively pollution free, particularly the coastal waters on the south, south-west and west coasts, but the Irish Sea is a completely different matter. Even though this Bill does not deal with pollution from sources other than ships and so on, it would be remiss of us not to mention Sellafield and the damage being done to the Irish Sea as a result of emissions from that plant. Experts tell us the Irish sea is one of the most radioactive seas in the world. There is a growing realisation that we should capitalise on the seas around our coasts. If our coastline is kept free from pollution it will have a beneficial effect not only as regards the fish we consume and the jobs accruing in that area but also as regards the jobs that would accrue from tourism which is vitally important to the country. It is important that our good, clean environment is safeguarded. We should ensure that our seas and beaches are in prime condition for future generations.

This Bill is aimed at preventing pollution of our seas by ships discharging oil, deliberately or otherwise, and also by toxic substances, obnoxious substances and harmful substances, including sewage and garbage. It excludes a number of measures including dumping within the meaning of the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, a measure which is now the cause of grave reservations among politicians, environmentalists and all those concerned with one of the greatest resources of this planet, the seas and oceans. For thousands of years man has been content to let nature take its course in replenishing what appears to be its never-ending stocks, but modern technology, while benefiting mankind with mind-boggling discoveries and scientific advances, has also created enormous problems. Problems have been experienced with the creation of toxic wastes and the disposal of those wastes. Governments, local authorities and private enterprise have found that the seas are a convenient dumping ground. It is a classic case of out of sight, out of mind.

We in this country have much ground to make up. We are an island nation on the periphery of Europe, with rich fishing grounds and an abundance of marine life. Ireland should have been in the vanguard of marine protection but yet we seem to be trailing behind other nations. While hopefully this Bill is a serious attempt to control pollution of our seas and estuaries, there are certain aspects which the Labour Party want to have teased out, clarified and, if necessary, amended.

I accept there is an urgent need for this country to tackle the serious threat of oil pollution from giant tankers which travel through our waters. In recent years we have seen some horrific examples, such as the Amoco Cadiz, the Torrey Canyon, the World Glory and the Exxon Valdez. These catastrophies spring readily to mind, with their massive spillages of millions of gallons of crude oil into seas around our coasts, to be washed up on our beaches. We are told that crude oil is comprised of hundreds of different chemicals, the effects of which cannot be assessed in the short term. It is now believed that these chemicals have a detrimental effect on sea life as long as they remain in the environment. There is also the very real danger of those involved in the clean-up operation being exposed to harmful effects of crude oil in this form, and of other toxic substances. These fears have been expressed by experts involved in this area of scientific analysis. We have been told that benzene evaporates rapidly from a spillage. There is now evidence from medical experts that skin cancer and other diseases are caused by contact with crude oil and this is a matter of grave concern to the people involved.

Much nearer home we have experienced spillages in Bantry Bay, and in the case of the ill-fated Kowloon Bridge, monetary compensation still has not been agreed. This is another example of where we have been lax in our legislation. The environmental damage from those incidents off our coasts has not been fully realised. In future years we will realise that there has been damage for which we cannot be compensated.

There is a responsibility and an obligation on every nation which uses the seas for the purposes of increasing wealth, for transport and enjoyment, to pass on to future generations this resource intact. The MARPOL Agreement is a welcome step in that direction. It seems incredible that in 1990 the seas are still open to abuse. Raw, untreated sewage is pumped into the sea at a tremendous rate, garbage and plastics of all kinds are dumped into the sea and miles of abandoned fishing nets float for years ensnaring valuable fish life and doing serious damage to endangered species of marine life.

Ruthless ship owners are playing their trade under flags of convenience and taking advantage of low freight charges. They have endangered lives and risked massive pollution in the pursuit of profit. We hope this Bill will be able to control and stamp out abuse in this area, but adequate resources must be provided for its implementation. We must curb the get rich quick merchants who use the seas to flush out tanks and bilges and have no conscience in regard to the damage they do and are capable of doing with suspect tankers and freighters.

One of the easiest methods of making money in shipping is by the fast turn around at ports. Frequently skippers and masters are under severe pressure from owners to meet a deadline. As soon as a cargo is off-loaded, whatever the commodity, the ship is got underway and all cleaning is done during the voyage to sea. It will be tremendously difficult, if not impossible, to monitor such activity, particularly if there is an incentive for the skipper such as a financial reward at the end of the trip.

I refer to the special features prescribed for ship design to minimise the outflow of oil in the event of an accident. Experts believe that such improvements to tanker design and structure would cost extra money at the petrol pump. It would appear that the oil giants who use the sea routes and ports will not meet the cost of safeguarding the environment. The Minister for the Marine and the Minister for Industry and Commerce might turn their attention to this point. The oil companies are making billions in profits and they have a moral and a legal obligation to make sure that the ships which carry their products across the globe have ample protection. That cost should not be passed on to the consumer. The environment belongs to everyone, including the oil companies and the people at the petrol pumps.

The Minister proposes to give effect to all five Annexes of the MARPOL Agreement. Perhaps the Minister will explain how pollution by sewage and garbage from ships will be prevented. Is it intended to store sewage on board and bring it ashore for disposal? If so, this sewage will be returned to the sea since the majority of local authorities pump raw sewage into the sea. Cities like Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Wexford and Cork have no sewage disposal units as such and it would be pointless to enforce that aspect of the agreement. I presume some ships would not be equiped for that type of storage. To bring sewage ashore for the sake of pumping it back to sea would be costly and counter-productive. The Minister might comment on this. Many of the smaller ports around the coast would be in a far worse position than the cities I have mentioned. Even in Cork and Dublin the problem exists on a massive scale.

Section 4 provides that this legislation shall not apply to any warship or to any ship used by the Government of any country for non-commercial purposes. This is alarming and extraordinary. Government-owned ships, particularly naval vessels, should serve as an example in preventing the pollution of the seas. I suspect the Minister's explanation may have something to do with agreements between other countries, perhaps under the Single European Act. The matter should be discussed further.

I compliment the Minister on the excellent poster which has been produced, explaining very carefully and fully what the Bill is all about. The caption at the top refers to all seafarers. The naval vessels which visit our shores and our own naval vessels are all crewed by seafarers and such vessels should be obliged to abide by the regulations. The Minister might explain the reasons for their exclusion. I draw the Minister's attention to Article 3 of the MARPOL Agreement which governs the exemption of naval vessels and I would ask him to ensure the inclusion of the section which provides that Governments should adopt appropriate measures, not impairing the operations or operational capabilities of such ships owned or operated by them, to see that such ships act in a manner consistent, as far as is reasonably possible and practicable, with the agreement. While I believe that all shipping should be treated equally, I shall be interested in the Minister's response on this important section.

Section 6 deals with the introduction of fees. Is it the Minister's intention to charge fishing boats and pleasure craft which may be at sea for a couple of days for the disposal of garbage? Apparently, there is no register of pleasure craft, such as yachts, cruisers or smaller boats. I wonder if it is time we kept a register so that people who own these pleasure craft are registered. If they go to sea and dump their garbage overboard, we have no method of following them up at present because, although we may get the name of the cruiser, there is no way the owner can be traced to it. Perhaps the Minister could examine the possibility of a register for smaller craft, in the same way as cars and motor bikes are registered.

In section 9, the Minister is to require the master or owner of a ship to notify him of the intention to load or unload a proscribed substance. I believe it is imperative that a ship travelling through Irish coastal waters would also be required to notify the Department of its route and cargo, in the same way that aircraft are obliged to notify air traffic control when they fly over this country. If ships are travelling on busy routes in our coastal waters whether from the United States of America, Britain or Europe, we should be notified of any cargo they are carrying, particularly if it is toxic. We should have a way of contacting those ships. We had trouble with ships in our waters during the winter and investigations were carried out into what they were transporting. However, I think we should be notified well in advance of the cargo of ships that come into our waters.

Section 12 states that harbours are to provide facilities for the disposal of oily residues and wastes. Some authorities may be able to comply with these regulations, but I would like information from the Minister regarding the provision, if any, for funding these facilities. In some coastal counties, which have a number of seaports and harbours, the cost could be substantial and the local authorities are already in a financial crisis. They would have great difficulty in paying a substantial bill to provide these facilities. We know that some companies who dispose of waste oil residues will only accept oil capable of being recycled and if the waste oil was unable to be recycled, this would create major problems for the local authorities. As far as I know there is no toxic waste disposal unit in this country and I know that local authorities would be reluctant to dispose of such waste in their land-fill sites. People are now deeply concerned about what goes in to the land-fill sites and we have had problems in the Cork area with this. I know this would be a major problem for some local authorities unless the local authorities had the proper back-up facilities to provide for the disposal of waste from ships. The enforcement of this section may present harbour boards and local authorities with a dilemma.

Section 14 provides that the Minister for the Marine may by regulations require a ship registered in the State to be constructed, fitted or operated in such a way as to prevent, control or reduce discharges into the sea. This is obviously going to reflect on costs and more than likely it is the consumer who will have to pay at the end of the day.

Sections 20 and 21 provide for the appointment of inspectors by the Minister and sets out their powers. While these powers are far-reaching, as they must be under the circumstances, I also notice that an inspector may be a surveyor of ships, an officer holding commissioned naval rank or a member of the Garda Síochána. I would like to ask the Minister if a member of the Garda Síochána would have to have a specific rank or have seagoing experience or experience in dealing with noxious substances. This seems a bit vague, and while I know a Garda member is the person to enforce the law, I feel that the rank and experience of that member would have to be defined.

Section 21 (6) (b) provides "that any person who refuses or neglects to make an answer ... shall be guilty of an offence." I think this is questionable under Irish law. I will not get into a legal wrangle at this point but I would like the Minister to give an opinion on this.

Section 23 provides that an inspector may direct the harbour master to permit a ship to enter port and it would appear that an inspector's power overrides that of the harbour master and this may cause doubt or confusion in operation. I have read the Bill and it would appear that in the event of an argument between a harbour master and inspector on whether a ship should enter port, the inspector's power overrides that of the harbour master. From what I know, the harbour master was the person in control of ships within his jurisdiction up to now and I wonder whether this would lead to a clash. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten us on this.

Section 29 deals with fines, and it would appear that all ships, including boats of all sizes and description are liable to the same treatment under the law. I am not being in any way flippant, but I wonder if the provisions of this section will also apply to the person who is out with his or her family on a Sunday afternoon in the punt or dinghy and may face a fine of up to £1,000 on summary conviction for tossing a bit of paper overboard.

——or the teddy bear.

I presume that under the Bill the same conditions apply to the user of a small boat as apply to the huge shipping magnate. I must stress that I am in no way taking the part of the polluter and we must make people aware that even the slighest bit of plastic thrown overboard can and does cause damage. I would be the first to promote an awareness of pollution in our rivers and estuaries but I think it may be a bit overpowering for a harbour master or inspector to enforce the law rigidly.

I do not want to get involved in a legal tangle on the provisions of section 35, but this section which presumes a person is guilty until proven innocent, is a change from the normal procedure which prevails in this country and while not in any way defending a polluter I would like to hear the Minister's observations on this section. If a ship is found in close proximity to a discharge of waste, the ship would be presumed guilty of the discharge. However I am sure the Minister knows as much as anybody else that there are ruthless skippers who would go into a busy shipping lane and discharge their waste, taking the chance they would not be caught, and they would then leave the scene pretty quickly. I think we would need extra staff such as naval protection staff in fast launches to patrol our harbours because, generally speaking, discharges take place in busy shipping lanes. I think it is opportune for the Minister to get in touch with the Department of Defence to promote greater awareness and co-operation between the naval personnel so that fast craft can move in quickly where there is a suspected case of pollution.

I welcome this Bill as a measure which attempts to regulate, control and eliminate pollution of our seas. The extent of this pollution can easily be understood if we look at a recent article in the Sherkin Comment, an excellent newspaper which has highlighted pollution problems over the years. It stated that six tons of debris were removed from the beaches of Beck Cove in the Hawaiian Archipelago, an uninhabited island, and within one year another three tons had gathered which included nets, plastics, bottles and other materials. This gave an indication of the volume of pollution in our oceans.

I find it extraordinary that there is no reference whatsoever in the Bill to radioactive waste, one of the greatest pollutants of our times. That is one of the reasons I have grave reservations about naval ships being exempt from the Bill. I also feel that ships in the business of transporting radioactive material through our seas and oceans should come under the jurisdiction of the Irish Government. These ships pose a major threat of pollution of our seas. The Irish Sea is probably the busiest in the world with nuclear powered submarines travelling to and fro and if there is an accident involving such a vessel the pollution caused by the Torry Canyon, the Amoco Cadiz, etc. will pale into insignificance by comparison. These submarines now pose the greatest threat of pollution of our waters.

The exemption of such vessels in the Bill is of major concern. This legislation does not legislate for nuclear stations which dispose of their waste into the sea. Legislation must be introduced to govern vessels which, if damaged or sunk, would pose the greatest pollution threat of all time. At the same time as we are debating this Bill, which will control the dumping of garbage, sewage and oil, big commercial concerns are dumping large volumes of toxic waste into the ocean. One UK firm, which made a profit of £1.5 billion last year, have consistently dumped huge volumes of waste into the North Sea. I am not saying that this is relevant to this Bill but in recent years there has been a great deal of dumping off our south coast. Until such time as the Government and the European Community come to grips with this problem and come up with a method for disposing of waste other than by dumping it into the sea, this Bill and other Bills will have no effect whatsoever. This Bill governs pollution by oil tankers, etc, but these are only in the halfpenny place in the debate on pollutants.

Vessels which carry nuclear waste for reprocessing and disposal, even if they are non-commercial Government operated craft from other countries, should be governed by this legislation. I believe mankind's greatest threat of pollution comes from this source. The legislation before the House is long overdue and is to the credit of people like John de Courcy Ireland, Matt Murphy of Sherkin Island and Gabriel King of Dún Laoghaire, who have consistently and constantly at great cost to themselves persevered in highlighting the potential of our seas and the danger of pollution. Those people have put their views on record and contacted the people involved in this area. Great credit is due to them because they have highlighted these problems at great cost to themselves.

The recent EC Summit held in Dublin had as one of its Presidential conclusions the objective of guaranteeing to the citizens of the Community the right to a clean and healthy environment, particularly in regard to our rivers, lakes, coastal and marine waters. I hope that we as a Community can live up to those guarantees.

I should like to join with my colleagues in welcoming the Bill and congratulating the Minister and his Department on bringing it before the House. There is a number of aspects of the Bill with which The Workers' Party are not entirely happy — I will refer to these at a later stage — but we welcome the Bill in general terms.

My first observation relates to the title, Sea Pollution Bill. This is a slightly exaggerated claim for this Bill. As I understand it, the Bill will enable Ireland to ratify MARPOL. As such, it is welcome and long overdue but as we know MARPOL deals with pollution from ships. We know also that the pollution of the sea is not confined to pollution from ships but comes from a number of sources — for example, pollution from landbased sources such as discharges of sewage from industrial and agricultural activity, pollution brought down by rivers, pollution from nuclear reprocessing plants and air pollution. This Bill will not address those problems because it is confined to pollution from ships. It would be unfortunate if the impression were given that the Dáil was dealing with a Bill on the totality of sea pollution rather than the more confined but certainly very important area of pollution from ships.

I want to ask a number of questions. First, why has it taken so long, almost two decades, for Ireland to ratify MARPOL? Why are we the last member state of the European Community, although we are only one of two island states in the European Community, to ratify MARPOL? It also raises the question of how effective MARPOL is in the first place in addressing the problem of pollution from ships. In addressing those questions we have to look back at where MARPOL came from — it is a marriage of the growing concern for the environment on the one hand with the internationalisation of issues relating to the seas on the other.

The international environmental debate started in earnest at the end of the sixties when the negative effects of modern industrial society on the environment, natural resources and human health became apparent. It was realised that the oceans and the seas had not functioned as large basins for the dilution of pollution but instead nature had started to strike back. A strong public opinion was created against the emission of pollutants into the environment, against oil spills and against the dumping of waste into the sea. It was slowly realised that the emissions from land based sources, industries, urban areas, agriculture or through rivers were the predominant sources of pollution, although at first the main attraction and attention was given to the more spectacular incidents at sea. Accidents in which oil tankers spill thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea do not happen every day, but the emissions of environmentally hazardous substances from ordinary non-dramatic activities in our society take place continuously day after day, year after year. The dumping or incineration of waste at sea can be stopped virtually at a day's notice. However, it is much more difficult to take fast and effective decisions to stop immediately the emission of nutrients or the deposition of air pollutants.

Awareness of the magnitude of pollution of the marine environment and the scope of the problem was followed by an awareness that a single country could not solve the problems around its coasts purely through national action and measures. It was clear that regional and international co-operation had to be initiated in order to deal effectively with the pollution of the seas. Many of the efforts within the various marine conventions are of a regional nature. Countries sharing a sea area also try to share responsibility for the protection of the environment of that area.

However, some issues are global in nature and must be dealt with on a global basis. Maritime activities with an impact on the environment such as oil pollution from ships are global problems, because shipping is truly a global industry involving vessels from virtually all countries of the world.

While various efforts were being made internationally to deal with the problem of pollution from ships and the marine environment, international efforts were also being made to establish an international law of the sea. It is interesting to note that, while 148 states participated in the 1973 Conference which initiated MARPOL, 17 years later only 49 of those countries have become participating states. It suggests that the remaining states, including our own, did not, over those years, give sufficient priority to the protection of the marine environment despite the international concern and outrage at major oil spills.

It also suggests that the international emphasis in relation to the sea over the past 20 years has leaned more towards the staking of territorial claims than to the protection of the marine environment. It also suggests that it was the more developed and industrialised countries, those with large fishing fleets, countries which had a military or naval interest in the sea, who saw the prospect of exploiting the sea for economic gain, who were the driving force in establishing the international law of the sea and that the concerns regarding the marine environment, and the global concerns, were pushed more and more into the background. National economic interests won over the need for international co-operation to deal with environmental problems. It is only in recent years, when there has been an increased awareness of the need to protect the sea, to see it not as a great big fish pond to be exploited or as a great dumping basin where whatever was thrown into it would be disposed of and dispersed, but as an integral part of the earth's life systems.

MARPOL and the Bill specifically deal with pollution from ships, a very important area. The old idea that whatever you threw overboard from a ship, whatever refuse you disposed of at sea, would be dispersed in the big wide oceans is no longer valid. A number of examples have already been given here of the kind of problems arising from such activity.

The National Academy of Science in the United States established that each year 6.5 million tonnes of litter are dumped overboard from ships. That is a remarkably huge amount of litter dumped in the sea. A more recent estimate says that 5.5 million containers are thrown overboard from ships every day, including cups and various other containers and that, of these, 700,000 are plastic. It is no wonder that plastic causes such havoc to marine life. For example, of the 85 fin whales which were taken by the Icelanders for scientific whaling, 8 per cent had plastic in their guts. That arose in whales found in Artic waters. Over half of all sea turtles had plastic in their stomachs and a recent study showed that 11 out of 15 leathery turtles died from plastic blockages in the stomach.

Monofilament net is another major problem. In the north east Pacific it is estimated that 1,600 miles of monofilament nets per year are found and that 600 miles of those are from Japanese fishing vessels. Therefore, we are dealing with a major international problem. It is regrettable that Ireland, which has a distinguished maritime history, instead of leading the field in relation to marine pollution and pollution from ships, should be a late ratifier of the MARPOL Convention. However, I suppose it is a case of better late than never.

It is not enough, however, just to pass legislation here which would enable us to ratify MARPOL. Steps must also be taken to give effect to it. It has been found by other countries who ratified MARPOL that one of the difficulties is in policing the dumping and discharging of refuse from ships. The Bill gives power to the Minister for the Marine to arrange for the inspection of vessels, but the question then arises as to whether there are sufficient staff and resources to do this effectively. Our tiny naval protection fleet will not be sufficient to deal with that task. Indeed, the Scandinavian countries have found that the best way of policing MARPOL is not from ships, but from the air. A ship is unlikely to be caught in the act discharging waste or litter if it believes that a naval protection vessel is nearby which can be quite easily established. It is much easier to be caught in the act by an aeroplane overhead.

I mentioned before that there is a need for a European coast watch. The protection of the seas and waters is no longer simply a national issue. Indeed, there is a case to be made that member states of the European Community, for example, may very well be duplicating their efforts in the policing of MARPOL and other conventions. There is a strong case for an EC initiative to establish a European coast watch whereby the coasts all round the European Community can be protected and the arrangements provided for in MARPOL and in this Bill can be properly implemented.

There is also a case for the introduction of a bounty system. The United States, in dealing with the MARPOL Convention, have found it very effective to offer a bounty to fishermen to bring in nets they find in the course of their work. They also, incidently, have a very interesting bounty system for fishermen or the masters of other vessels who inform on sea polluters, but I am not sure it would find much favour in this country.

One of the main provisions in the Bill is the requirement that harbours will have to have waste reception facilities. The Minister in his speech said that harbour authorities had been requested to provide such facilities. However, the provision of such facilities will require considerable investment. There are many problems in this area and Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned some of them. From inquiries I made I learned that very few ships coming into Irish waters ever inquire about the possibility of waste reception facilities. For example, in Waterford, Bell Shipping have their own waste reception facilities; but, apart from Bell Shipping, one agent said that he was asked once about ten years ago about waste reception facilities. No other agent had been asked about such facilities. In Dublin Port, Guinness have their own waste reception facilities; but over a two year period, apart from Guinness, 7,000 vessels came into Dublin Port and only 130 applied for waste reception facilities.

What are ships doing with the waste they generate while they are on a voyage? The answer is quite simple — they are discharging it and dumping it into the sea. One of the reasons for that is the cost in relation to the disposal of waste when ships are in port. I was informed that the cost of removing waste from even a small vessel in Dublin Port is in the region of £300 to £400, which seems extremely high, given that Dublin County Council charge £30 for the deep burial of the same waste in a county council tiphead. There is the double problem of, on the one hand, waste reception facilities not being sought or indeed being available and, one the other, that the charges by private operators are so high as to discourage ships from seeking reception facilities for their waste.

I would be grateful if the Deputy would now give way to hear a statement from the Taoiseach. After the brief statements by the Taoiseach and the spokespersons nominated by Fine Gael, the Labour Party and The Workers' Party the debate will resume.

Debate adjourned.