Sea Pollution Bill, 1990: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
I have just indicated to the House that we are on section 4. I did not ask if it was agreed.
It is not agreed.
I did not inquire as to whether it was agreed. I just said "section 4".
You asked if it was agreed.
No, I did not.
Perhaps I am imagining things.
That is a dangerous one there.
I think we left this at the point where we had just voted on a Fine Gael amendment dealing with the circumstances in which a warship might not be exempt from the provisions of this Bill. Section 4 has two parts. One is the general part providing that the Bill shall not apply to any warship or any ship used for the time being by the government of any country for purposes other than commercial purposes. The second part proposes that if the Minister is satisfied that such an exemption would not result in an increased risk of pollution he can make regulations exempting certain classes of ships from compliance with this Bill. Fundamentally I object to that section of the Bill because we have in this State traditionally valued our neutral status, a status that has been under a certain amount of pressure in recent times from people who believe that in order to be good, modern Europeans we should in some way adopt a warlike attitude to our neighbours and to the world generally. That is not a view I would share. We are still a neutral country. Our Navy is not very large, and some would say in terms of protecting our coastline and protecting the commercial and fishing interests — which we should be protecting — it needs to be enlarged. Certainly we are not in the league of having warships or of having ships which might be used in a war.
What we are talking about here is exempting warships of other countries, which would include submarines and so on. The Minister confirmed on previous occasions that the activity of submarines, particularly in the Irish Sea, poses a threat to fishing and commercial vessels. Not very long ago we saw a "Today Tonight" documentary which raised the terrifying prospect of these submarines, in some circumstances, being out of control, that their commanders, because of their isolation, might not necessarily always act in the most rational manner. There is a very dangerous threat to our environment, to fishing interests and so on as a result of the activities of these ships.
I do not see the justification for the exemption of warships from this Bill. This Bill is about sea pollution and is designed to prevent pollution occurring in the first place. Our beaches will not distinguish between the oil from a warship or from a commercial vessel. I do not think warships should be exempted from the provisions of this Bill.
I am concerned also about subsection (2) which would give the Minister the power to make regulations which would exempt other classes of vessels from the terms of the Bill. That gives rise to a situation which would undermine the whole purpose of the Bill, which is to protect our seas and our coastline from pollution by ships. The Bill is undermined if the Minister has the power to make regulations which exempt certain classes of ships.
I am opposing the section. I would like to hear the Minister's justification for including this section in the Bill in the first place. I do not see any justification for a neutral country incorporating a section dealing with warships into a Bill on sea pollution.
I am now calling Deputy G. O'Sullivan. As far as I can recollect, we had a fair amount of warfare on amendment No. 7a. Even though a few days have elapsed, repetition is not encouraged. However, we may have to refresh our memories on it.
It is very important that we do refresh our memories because it is a very important section. I withdrew my amendment for the simple reason that I thought I might confuse the issue. I fully support my colleagues in opposing the section. I fail to understand why there should be an exemption for any type of ship. It is fair to say that some of the naval ships which are being exempted would be antiquated, and I am sure the House would agree that we have had cases of naval ships which were not-seaworthy. There have been instances throughout the world where naval ships have created problems. For some peculiar reason — we are all anxious to hear what the Minister has to say on this — vessels of all navies are being exempt under this Bill.
When this Bill came before the House we were very enthusiastic about it because for the first time we felt this country was getting its act together and that we would have an input into preserving the environment, our marine life and the seas around our coast. We are an island nation and it is very important that all aspects of pollution be addressed. Having looked at the exemption, I cannot see any particular reason anyone should include that section in the Bill. The only conclusion I have been able to come to was that perhaps some of the nations which were involved in MARPOL up to now, had fairly large naval forces and it might have been very expensive for them if their naval ships had to comply with the regulations laid down under the MARPOL Convention. I am anxious to hear the Minister's response to our opposition to the section.
Having examined the Bill and the various types of pollution from ships we have seen since the Bill was first laid before the House, I fail to see any reason an exemption should be made for any type of craft, whether it be a naval vessel or a commercial vessel; the same rules and regulations should be adhered to by all. Some naval vessels are antiquated.
Other sections of the Bill make provision for sewage disposal and so on. There may be a cost factor involved if commercial firms and Governments have to comply with the regulations laid down in this Bill and if the ships were to be modernised in such a way as to dispose of sewage inland as distinct from dumping it at sea.
I oppose the section for the reasons I have given. I do not see any reason a particular ship, irrespective of whether it is flying a naval flag or any other type of flag, should be exempt from the stringent and tough regulations governing our seas. We have come to realise that the seas are one of our main resources. This Bill gave us an opportunity to have some input into international legislation. What the Minister has put before us is, to a large extent, a copy of another Bill in another place. I would say at this stage that we should be independent and not go down the road of other nations. I will have to wait for the Minister's response but at present I have no alternative but to oppose the section.
I agree with my colleagues with regard to the unacceptability of this section. The Minister in response to amendment No. 7a, said that because it was part of the MARPOL Convention there were certain boundaries or parameters we had to be part of. I take that point. However, when the section focuses on ships and warships in wartime, then we have to be careful and we have to be particularly fearful. The point has been made already that we are not a warlike nation or a military nation and we have a high regard for our neutral position. If our waters were used by warships, as of now, that would mean those warships were in Irish waters and presumably inside a neutral zone.
The most alarming point about this is that while the Convention prohibits the dumping of noxious liquid substances, sewage and garbage, particularly plastic, no reference is made to nuclear effluent. When we think of submarines and warships we think of nuclear submarines and nuclear warships. I think most people throughout the world welcome the progress made in regard to the dismantling of both long and short-range land nuclear weapons. However, Governments have not concentrated on the deadly and subversive nuclear warships which sail the seas at present, a practice most ordinary people are unaware of. There is an urgent need for this section to be removed from the Bill as long as that practice continues.
I do not think anybody in this House or outside needs to be educated about the long term consequences of nuclear and radiation effluent. Unfortunately many warships still carry nuclear warheads. Therefore, it is very important that the most deadly pollution of all should be subject to the terms of this Sea Pollution Bill which attempts to keep the seas around Ireland free from pollution.
In view of the drastic implications of nuclear warships and submarines and the fact that they have not been dealt with in any disarmament process, these vessels should not be exempt from the provisions of this Bill. If a referendum was held tomorrow I believe people would endorse our nuclear-free status. We will be totally ignoring our nuclear free status if we include a section in this Bill which will allow for the risk of dumping from nuclear warships and submarines. We are opposed to this section and I ask the Minister to support us in our opposition.
Like Deputy Gilmore, I did not seek to amend this section as I believe it is totally incapable of being amended and therefore I am opposed to it. I think I spoke on the section on the previous occasion when the Bill was debated. I will not detain the House very long as I would only be repeating what other Deputies have said but I should like to make a further point which has not been made so far.
The main reason the Minister has given for the inclusion of this section in the Bill is that this is what is provided for under the MARPOL Convention. We can, if we so wish, go beyond the MARPOL Convention. We would be quite within our rights in laying down regulations regarding the passage of ships in our territorial waters. We should try to set higher standards and not just accept the standards laid down by MARPOL which in this instance are minimalist. This Convention goes back many years and obviously pressure was brought to bear by certain nations at the MARPOL conference to water down this clause as much as possible. This is exactly what has happened.
It is a nonsense to exclude warships from the provisions of the Bill. The Minister should try to convene another MARPOL Convention so as to amend the original MARPOL agreement and include warships. We want all nations to accept that pollution from warships whether their own warships or warships from other countries, is unacceptable. As a neutral country, a special obligation rests on us to be ahead of the pack in this instance and not to follow other countries.
On the last occasion we discussed the Bill we had an extensive debate on this section. At that time the amendment tabled by me was defeated. That amendment sought to provide an exemption for warships during times of war. Like my colleagues, I am opposed to this section which seeks to give a free run to all types of warships to use our territorial waters.
I think we all agree that the Naval Service, as an arm of the State, should give the best possible example in the prevention of pollution. I am sure navy personnel would be very happy to be included within the terms of the Sea Pollution Bill. I have no doubt that the navy cause very little if any, pollution and it would be in the interests of the community generally if they were not given special status over and above the business community, the fishing community or the operators of any other type of vessel at sea. This is one of the reasons I believe the navy should be included within the terms of the Bill.
I want to refer to the more serious problem posed by warships from countries such as England, Russia, France and the United States which constantly carry out manoeuvres around our coast. As Deputy Barnes said, most of these vessels are nuclear-powered submarines. It would be totally unacceptable for us to pass a Sea Pollution Bill which did not impose restrictions on these vessels. Deputy Garland referred to the terms of the MARPOL Convention. I agree with the points made by the Deputy in this regard. The MARPOL Convention has been signed by many countries and as a sovereign State we are not limited to the terms of that Convention; we can go a step further and introduce more restrictive legislation than the MARPOL Convention suggests.
This is why I ask the Minister to go further at this stage and not merely say, as he did on Second Stage, that the Bill implements the MARPOL Convention. As the House of Parliament of a sovereign State, this House has the ability to introduce legislation over and above the terms of the MARPOL Convention. Over the past number of years the Government have sought to convince the public that they are seriously concerned about pollution and our environment. If they are serious about pollution and preventing pollution, including the most serious and horrific pollution of all, nuclear pollution, then they have an ideal opportunity to date to show that they have been sincere in their repeated expressions by removing this section from the Bill. This section does not in any way enhance the Bill but detracts substantially from it.
It is important not to lose sight of what we are trying to do here. We are trying to legislate in such a way that the MARPOL Convention becomes effective so far as Ireland is concerned. There are five annexes to that Convention, as the House knows from the Second Stage debate, and various countries have subscribed to various annexes. The concerns expressed by the Deputies today are serious and deserve serious consideration. However, there is a touch of the alarmist about it. We must reflect that we want to get en rapport with 58 countries that have already subscribed to the MARPOL Convention, and this legislation enables us to do so. We will then be part of that team which is attacking pollution under the five headings that attach to the five annexes.
I am not offering an excuse but simply explaining the position. The Legislatures of 58 countries have seen to it that those countries have subscribed to the MARPOL Convention. I will mention some of them — it is important to mention those that might have similar status to ourselves as regards the nuclear problem. For example, Sweden found no problem in subscribing to the Convention, nor did Switzerland and Finland. I mention only those few because of their known attitude towards nuclear power and neutral status.
I explained already that the question of admission of warships into Irish territorial waters is not relevant to this Bill. That question would have to be legislated for under a different framework and under the competence of a different Minister, namely, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We cannot add to the MARPOL Convention or take from it. The curate's egg is there, and some people regard only part of it as being good, but we take the whole egg or we take nothing at all. I do not believe that we are doing damage to the thrust and purpose of the Bill by subscribing to the Convention.
I may have read into the record of the House Article 3 (3) of the MARPOL Convention. Subsection (1) as it is drafted reflects the terms of that Article which reads:
The present Convention shall not apply to any warship, naval auxiliary or other ship owned or operated by a State and used, for the time being, only on government non-commercial service. However, each Party shall ensure by the adoption of appropriate measures not impairing the operations or operational capabilities of such ships owned or operated by it, that such ships act in a manner consistent, so far as is reasonable and practicable, with the present Convention.
We also mentioned the Intervention Convention. Article 1 (a) of that Convention states: "However, no measure shall be taken under the present Convention against any warship or other ship owned or operated by a State and used, for the time being, only on government non-commercial service." It is the belief of 58 countries that this Convention in no way damages their position with regard to nuclear power, nor has it inhibited them from making any other regulations. It is important for us to get into this league, and we can only do so on the terms I have proposed.
I want to make three further points. There is an internationally accepted principle that no State may exercise jurisdiction through its laws over the warships of another State. This subsection simply reflects that principle. Ireland may not exercise jurisdiction over warships of another country in the same way that another country cannot exercise jurisdiction over our ships.
Second, the subsection does not change in any respect the well known policy, expressed by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other Ministers in this House and elsewhere, on nuclear powered vessels or vessels carrying nuclear weapons. I stressed this at length in my Second Stage speech and I will repeat it. It is the policy of the Government not to grant permission to nuclear powered vessels or to vessels carrying nuclear weapons to enter Irish ports. Foreign naval vessels are entitled under international law to transit the territorial waters of another State in exercise of a right of innocent passage.
Third, if warships were not exempted from the scope of international conventions, such as MARPOL, very few States would become party to them and we would not have global agreement — this is the point I am trying to make, we want to join the team — on issues which have global implications as far as pollution is concerned. For that reason I stand by the wording of the section.
I appreciate that we are spending quite some time on this section and that is good because it is probably the most controversial section in the Bill. There is general agreement across the House on the desirability of this State getting on board as far as the MARPOL Convention is concerned. The Minister's reply is somewhat disingenuous. He listed three countries, one of which, Switzerland, has no territorial waters at all.
It has ships.
Yes, but it has no territorial waters. Apart from its own vessels, it will not have to worry about policing its territorial waters in respect of the naval vessels of other States. The Minister also mentioned Finland and Sweden. It does not follow that because those three countries——
I mentioned only three out of 58 countries.
I am taking that into account. There is nothing in the MARPOL Convention that requires this State to incorporate this exemption into the Bill. Secondly, the exemption the Minister is proposing to build into this Bill goes far beyond the MARPOL agreement and Article 3 (3) of that agreement. Article 3 (3), as I interpret it, was intended for those countries who have large navies, such as the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and so on, whose military and naval services exercise a lot of clout, and for understandable reasons — but not necessarily reasons I would agree with, those countries would want to exempt their naval vessels from the terms of the MARPOL Convention. As I understand it, that is what Article 3 (3) of the MARPOL Convention is about.
Article 3 (3), which the Minister read into the record, also goes beyond the exemption. It goes on to state that those ships are required to act in a manner consistent, so far as is reasonable and practicable, with the present convention. Here the Minister proposes a simple exemption, without any qualification, for warships and naval vessels. Nothing in the MARPOL agreement obliges this State to incorporate that exemption in the Bill. I should like the Minister to deal with that issue. Ireland could still be a party to MARPOL without the exemption for warships that the Minister proposes to include in the Bill. That is the bottom line; Ireland would not be prevented from being a party to the MARPOL agreement if section 4 were deleted.
The Minister also stated that it was Government policy that visiting naval vessels should not carry nuclear weapons. This State has no way of enforcing that. There is a gentlemen's agreement under which the Government of this country make it known to Governments of other countries that naval vessels visiting our ports should not carry nuclear weapons, but there is absolutely no way of enforcing that. Ireland has no way of knowing whether or not naval vessels of other States visiting our ports carry nuclear weapons, for the very simple reason that other States have pointedly refused to state whether or not they do carry nuclear weapons. It has been confirmed repeatedly in the House that Governments and naval authorities of other States will not confirm whether a vessel is carrying nuclear weapons.
There is a major loophole in the Bill, which is essentially about protecting our seas and waters. Some States might wish to carry toxic materials, for example, through our waters. We may well become directly involved in that matter, because as is well known now, the Government have plans to locate a toxic waste incinerator in Derry and, as is also known, there is not sufficient production of toxic waste on this island to make a toxic waste incinerator viable. It is therefore highly likely that toxic waste will have to be imported into Derry, if that is to be the location for the toxic waste incinerator. Fair enough, that issue could be controlled under the Bill, but what does the Government do if a country decides to carry its toxic waste, or any other hazardous material, on what it terms a "naval vessel"? Some states very quickly change the status of a vessel from being a normal commercial vessel to being a naval vessel, and they may well do so to circumvent some of the provisions in the MARPOL agreement. The issue of Sellafield is one of the old chestnuts in the House, and we all have a bash at it periodically. It is now known that the THORP reprocessing plant is due to come into operation in 1992. That reprocessing plant will bring nuclear waste from as far away as Japan, travelling in vessels through the Irish Sea. The caverns for the burial of reprocessed nuclear waste are to be constructed under the sea at Sellafield, which, again, will encourage the transport of nuclear waste through the Irish Sea to Sellafield. A country could carry that waste on a naval vessel or it might carry it on a vessel that belongs to a class that has been exempted by the Minister under section 4 (2).
Section 4 undermines what this country and the Minister are attempting to do, which is to protect our seas, to become a party to the MARPOL agreement and to make sure that no pollution arises from ships. The inclusion of section 4 is not necessary for Ireland to become a party to the MARPOL agreement. Article 3 (3) of the MARPOL agreement was intended primarily for countries that have major navies and warships, not for countries like Ireland, which does not have a major navy, which has no warship, and which is, so far anyway, a neutral State.
I do not wish to go over old ground, but I do think that the issue can be teased out in a little more detail, following the Minister's response. As Deputy Gilmore said, the removal of this section would not deny Ireland the right to be a party to the MARPOL Convention. Surely, on behalf of our own nation, we should aspire to the highest level. I took the Minister to mean that Ireland had to go along with 58 other countries and be part of the gang. He said that perhaps on another occasion and in other legislation different regulations could be made, but if the parameters of the Convention are so rigid as to prevent Ireland from making an independent decision and not allow warships within our waters, then surely those different regulations might be found to be in contravention of the agreement? if indeed there is a way of making regulations under any other guise, then surely the Sea Pollution Bill is the legislation into which such a prohibition should be introduced?
We can be grateful to the people and the "people power" of the 1960s and the 1970s, when the idea of a nuclear plant in this country was toyed with and they decided that Ireland did not want any part of nuclear plants. I am thankful that the people made that decision and that they were listened to. Sweden, which has served and does serve us as a model in other ways, is now trying to dismantle a nuclear plant. It recognises, after incidents such as the Chernobyl disaster, the incredibly dangerous long term implications of any leakage of nuclear effluent, or radiation. Such knowledge was gained very painfully.
A great number of the 58 countries became party to the Convention before the real dangers of radiation and nuclear effluent, with all their desparate consequences, become fully known, and I suggest that some of those countries might not have as clearly been part of the Convention had they had the knowledge that we now possess. We have the privilege of having learned by coming in late. We should act on the knowledge gained and on the opinion of our people about the dangers of nuclear radiation.
I should like the Minister to speak on the claims made by Deputy Gilmore. Is section 4 included in the Bill to allow Ireland to become a member of the MARPOL Convention or does that inclusion merely mean we are in agreement with the 58 other countries? Would the removal of this dangerous section mean that Ireland could not be party to the Convention, that somehow we would be put outside its boundaries? If not, there is absolutely no good reason to include the section, and many good and serious reasons have been given for not accepting it.
Because the guillotine is being imposed at 7 p.m. we will be unable to discuss this important aspect of the Bill. The Minister said that we must not lose sight of the objective of the Bill. We have not lost sight of it. We have been very helpful about this.
The Minister indicated that we have regulations governing nuclear arms ships coming into our ports — we all subscribe to them — however, we do not have any control over navies who pollute our waters. There seems to be a contradiction here, perhaps I am missing the point. We should have the same control in relation to pollution as we have over nuclear vessels coming into our ports.
The Minister may have missed a golden opportunity to take a courageous stand on this issue. While it may be appropriate to use parts of other legislation to our best advantage, we should look independently at things and consider what we as an island nation can do to protect our environment. We could have done that by deleting that section of the Bill. Section 4 (1) of the Bill says:
This Act shall not apply to any warship or to any ship for the time being used by the government of any country for purposes other than commercial purposes.
The Minister referred to Article 3 of the MARPOL Convention where it says that the Convention shall not apply to any warship, naval auxiliary or other ship owned or operated by a State and used, for the time being, only on government non-commercial service. The Minister should at least take that section of the MARPOL Convention on board. The Convention went on:
However, each Party shall ensure by the adoption of appropriate measures not imparing the operations or operational capabilities of such ships owned or operated by it, that such ships act in a manner consistent, so far as is reasonable and practical, with the present convention.
That is not included in the Bill. I would like the Minister to look at that aspect and see if he could include it in section 4 (1).
The Minister has said that this Act shall not apply to any warship. That is not what the MARPOL agreement says. It says a lot more. The Minister has indicated that he is not prepared to change the section. I am aggrieved that we will not be able to discuss this on Report Stage. It is grossly unfair to use the guillotine on this important Bill when we could be here for another hour arguing this point. It is vital to tease out the Bill to the very last.
The Minister would have taken a courageous stand if he had included the sections in the MARPOL Convention to which I referred. This would go some way towards controlling naval vessels coming into our ports. The Minister knows as well as I that unless things are in writing we could be caught out another time.
This is our first serious Bill on pollution and the marine environment. This should be the best Bill we can bring forward. We are not doing justice to the people who framed the Bill and to the people who contributed by imposing a guillotine and we are not doing justice to the country in relation to pollution. We are opposing the section but I would ask the Minister to at the very least take on the suggestions I have made and give us something.
Deputy O'Sullivan will agree that we have not been mindful of time nor have we imposed any restrictions on how we address this section. It seems to the Chair that at this stage we have danced around the maypole long enough. However, if we want to continue dancing around it, so be it.
The Minister could respond by indicating that he will change it in the Seanad.
I will not presume to speak on behalf of the Minister, but it seems to me that no great purpose is being served——
All is not lost.
——by having any more presumption, hypothesis or speculation on this section. It has been well served by way of contributions.
There are more contributions to be made. We could stay her all night contributing to this section and raising relevant points.
I would not agree. The section is very specific and the Chair——
——and equally this side of the House is very specific in what it is urging the Minister to do.
—— would have to remind the House that on Committee Stage we speak on what is in the Bill, the details of the section. This is not Second Stage where we can talk about what might be in it or what might not be in it. Deputy Taylor-Quinn as an experienced Member, might now set the headline in her contribution.
I presume that one is allowed to respond to the Minister's reply to the amendments.
It is in order of course.
In replying the Minister was not hauled over the coals in relation to adhering to the section.
Will the Deputy proceed to entreat the Minister to change his mind in whatever fashion she thinks it appropriate?
I was rather disturbed by the Minister's reasons for being unable to accept the recommendation from this side of the House. The Minister said that many of the 58 members who signed the MARPOL Convention had to do so. That sort of comment is extremely serious. One wonders about the other 58 members who actually signed the MARPOL Convention. Why would they not want their country, their warships and their navies to be included in a Sea Pollution Bill? What was their hidden agenda if they would not be happy to include that section? That raises fundamentally serious questions. What sovereign government would impose obligations on ordinary persons but exempt themselves? There is something very strange there and I hope the Minister will elaborate on it. That is a greater reason that we should be prepared to go the full distance and remove this section.
The Minister referred to three countries which had no difficulty with signing the Convention — Switzerland, Sweden and Finland. I presume the reason the Minister referred to them is because they are neutral. Switzerland is a land bound country so the effect of the MARPOL Convention on it is minimal. They do not have waters or a marine environment to protect and, therefore, they would not consider this a matter of major concern.
As Deputy Barnes has already pointed out, Sweden and Finland operate nuclear plants but are anxious to close many of them. They do not have the same concern in relation to nuclear effluent or pollution as our people. The Government should reflect the attitude and views of the people who greatly fear nuclear effluent and the damage it can cause.
The Minister also referred to the right of innocent passage of various warships in our territorial waters. They do have a right of innocent passage but, as Deputy Gilmore said, commercial ships are changed overnight by governments to become part of their naval fleets to accommodate specific types of activity. We should be very seriously concerned about this given our location where major traffic in the north Atlantic travels across our territorial waters. Members in this House should not be afraid to legislate, as strongly as possible, to protect our marine environment. We have a major interest in this because we are an island nation.
The Minister's reasons for not agreeing to the withdrawal of this section are not convincing, if anything they create more fears and concern on this side of the House. I ask him to reconsider this and not to blindly follow the other member states who signed the MARPOL Convention. As the Minister said, some of them have refused to recognise that the Convention applies to their own warships and if the Convention insists on including them, these countries will not sign it. Why did they not agree to accept the Convention? Why are they fearful of having something imposed on them when they are quite willing to impose it on the private sector? The Minister should explain this to the House.
You cannot have an à la carte MARPOL Convention, pick out one bit which you like and leave out another bit you dislike. When you accede to the Convention it means acceding to the whole Convention. I read Article 3 (3) earlier to the House. The latter part states that each party shall ensure, by the adoption of appropriate measures not impairing the operations or operational capabilities of such ships owned or operated by it, that such ships act in a manner consistent, so far as is reasonable and practicable, with the present Convention. As I said, when you accede to the MARPOL Convention you accede to the second part of the paragraph, which was mentioned by Deputy O'Sullivan.
Deputy Barnes mentioned other approaches with regard to the specific point made about warships. I said that this would have to be dealt with in a different way as it has nothing to do with the MARPOL Convention. If we want to pursue legislation in this regard, I pointed out it would have to be legislated for under a different framework by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I urge the House to pass this section.
I want to make one final point. It is not included in the Bill.
It does not have to be.
This is where we differ. It it had been included in the Bill we would at least know where we are going. The second part is not included in the Bill.
I want to make it clear that, when you accede to the MARPOL Convention, you accede to the whole paragraph, you do not take out part of it.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Séamus.
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- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
Amendment No. 9 is in the names of Deputies Gilmore, G. O'Sullivan and Taylor-Quinn. Amendments Nos. 9, 9a., 9b., 9c., 9d., 13, 13a., 15, 17, 18 and 24 are related, and I suggest therefore that we discuss them together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 9, subsection (1), line 4, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".
This is a very simple amendment and all the related amendments are the same: they are basically to change the word "may" to "shall" in a number of sections in an effort to strengthen the Bill. As we have mentioned earlier, the intention is to provide the maximum possible protection of the sea and our coastlines from pollution. These sections deal with the making of regulations by the Minister. The formulation of words used at present enable the Minister to make regulations but would not require him to, for example, make regulations dealing with the discharge of oil and other substances. It is heavily dependent on the will of the Minister to make those regulations. I have no doubt that the present Minister would make the regulation but it may well be that a future incumbent would be less committed to protecting the sea from pollution than the present Minister and therefore the regulations would not be made. That is the import of the amendment.
I join in proposing that the word "may" be substituted by the word "shall". It is important that the definite aspect of the Bill be stressed and this change of wording gives us an opportunity to do so. This is a technical matter but it has implications because it brings into focus our determination to ensure that regulations "shall" be made. I agree with my colleague, Deputy Gilmore that the present Minister will bring in legislation but there is a certain amount of vagueness that "shall" would eliminate and I hope the Minister will agree that it should replace "may".
I support this amendment. I wish to reiterate the same point the word "shall" is much more definite. I should not anticipate what the Minister will say but even if the Minister and the draftspersons believe that "may" is adequate on this occasion, I think the people who read the legislation would see that "shall" carries a much more serious intent. It would also be a witness of how seriously this House, and indeed the people take the problem of pollution and the adherence to the regulations in this Bill. A lack of definition might give some people the idea that the intent of the Bill was not actually defined as we know the Minister intends it to be. I join my colleagues in saying that we acknowledge the serious intent of the Minister in this area but we believe our amendment adds weight to the intent, which is necessary.
I wish to support the amendments in the names of Deputies Gilmore, G. O'Sullivan and Taylor-Quinn. It is quite apparent that we must give this Bill teeth and we must give this Minister quite clear directions and take away discretion from the Minister in these matters. These are important matters and the Bill should quite clearly set out that the Minister "shall" do these things, and for that reason I am supporting these amendments.
First, I think the House should realise that a discretionary role for the Minister is essential in this case. It is important to point out that the use of the word "shall" instead of "may", the future indicative instead of the subjunctive case does not impose any time limit and there is no point in thinking of the amendments as bringing about a time limit. The regulations will contain what is necessary in the Irish context for the full compliance with and enforcement of the MARPOL Convention. I make the further point that the regulations when made initially are laid on the table of the Houses of the Oireachtas and any amendment in the future to those regulations must also follow the same procedure, so there is a full democratic view of the regulations and the provision made for dealing with them.
In relation to amendment No. 9a, as Deputy Gilmore in a similar amendment has pressed and shown the seriousness with which all Members on this side of the House take this matter, I will not press this amendment and take up the time of the House.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 9, subsection (5), line 23, to delete "and".
We now come to amendment No. 11 in the name of Deputy Gerry O'Sullivan. Amendment No. 25 is an alternative to amendment No. 11 and I am suggesting, therefore, that we discuss amendments Nos. 11 and 25 together, by agreement. Agreed.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 9, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following subsection:
"(6) The Minister shall by regulation require all ships travelling through Irish waters carrying oil, oily mixture, noxious substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage, to notify the relevant authority of its passage and destination.".
My amendment complements that of the Minister. Subsection (5) of this section states:
The Minister may by regulations require the notification at such time and in such manner as may be prescribed, by the master or owner of a ship carrying an prescribed substance and of any intent to load or unload any such substance in the State.
This needs to be expended in the manner provided for in my amendment. It is very important that we should state our claim that any movement of traffic through our waters should be supervised by our port authorities. In the past few years there have been several incidents, particularly off the south and southwest coasts, involving large ships which were in trouble. Alarm was expressed from many quarters as to the possibility of marine pollution. This area is one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe. It was with this in mind that I put down the amendment. Many cargoes pass through our waters which we know nothing about. Only when a ship is in trouble do we find out what it is carrying. We are supposed to have regulations about the freight carried on overflights; the same should apply to ships using our waters. There should be an obligation to tell us what they are carrying in their holds. The Minister should have no reservations about this. His amendment indicates that he is thinking along those lines.
I appreciate Deputy O'Sullivan's purpose in suggesting this amendment. Section 23 (5) covers substantively the details of the amendment. There is merit in Deputy O'Sullivan's suggestion to expand the provisions. That would mean seeking information at all ports of call from the port of a ship's departure to its destination.
My amendment No. 25 states:
In page 16, subsection (5) (a), line 43, after "State" to insert "and of its passage and destination while in the State and such other information relating to the ship and its cargo as may be prescribed".
That meets Deputy O'Sullivan's request for information on the ship's passage and destination in relation to section 10 and it empowers the Minister to seek any further information in relation to a ship or its cargo if he thinks it would be of benefit to himself, his Department and the State. I appreciate Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment and I suggest that the extra demands for some further information incorporated in my amendment should stand.
In view of what the Minister has indicated, I will withdraw my amendment.
Amendment No. 12 is in the name of Deputy Gilmore. I observe that amendment No. 12a is an alternative and I suggest that we discuss amendments Nos. 12 and 12a together, by agreement. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 9, lines 33 to 40, to delete paragraph (b).
Section 10 enables the Minister to make regulations prohibiting the discharge of oil and other substances from ships into the sea. Section 11 deals with certain circumstances in which regulations under section 10 would not apply. Some of those circumstances are perfectly understandable. Paragraph (a) deals with the exceptions where the safety of the ship or of lives at sea would be at stake. Paragraph (c) deals with the discharge of substances into the sea for the purpose of minimising damage from pollution. I can understand those exemptions.
Paragraph (b) is very unfortunate because it will make it impossible to enforce the regulations. It states that the regulations will not apply in circumstances where the oil, noxious substances and so on have been discharged, provided that all reasonable steps have been taken after the occurrence of the damage or, as the case may be, the discovery of the discharge, to prevent or minimise the discharge and the owner or the master did not act with intent to cause damage or recklessly. We must consider the question of enforcement. Let us say that a ship is discovered somewhere off the west coast which is discharging some substance into the sea.
The Minister has made regulations dealing with that matter. When he attempts to enforce those regulations, to recover the cost of anti-pollution measures or the clean up operation, the master of that ship can say that as soon as he discovered the oil was going into the sea he took all reasonable steps to limit the damage. He can say that he did not discharge the oil into the sea with intent to cause damage and that he did not act recklessly. Who is to deny that? The crew of the ship? Hardly. In such a case the condition of the ship, the training of the crew, whether they understood the safety measures and knew the regulations they were supposed to comply with, does not come into it at all.
I find this a strange paragraph in the Bill. It will have the effect of undermining the regulations the Minister proposes to make. If we were to have a normal Report Stage I would be asking the Minister to have a second look at this because it will undermine the whole intent of the Bill and make it virtually impossible to enforce.
What Deputy Taylor-Quinn was attempting in her Bill is similar to what Deputy Gilmore wants. It should be defined much more clearly than it is at the moment. Deputy Taylor-Quinn wanted to ensure that in no way would the responsibility be left with the ship or crew that had committed a polluting offence. The more we study the wording in paragraph (b) the more we see how open to manipulation it is. As Deputy Gilmore pointed out, and as we know to our cost, very often the pollution and the harm take place at a time and in a place where there is no objective witness and one would have to question the accuracy of evidence given by the crew that they took all measures to minimise the discharge upon discovering it. There could be a whole set of circumstances, including carelessness, lack of understanding of the regulations, failure to ensure that the cargo itself was safeguarded in the very best environmental conditions etc. How do we know that the cargo is so safeguarded?
We have been very lucky. All of us here have paid tribute to the Minister and the experts in the Department on delivering us from the effects of some disastrous accidents which could have resulted in heavy and widespread pollution. Because such accidents can happen it is all the more necessary to leave no room for ships and crews to make excuses or claims about something that we ourselves cannot investigate and we may not be able to find out if the regulations had been adhered to before such accidents occurred. Cases could be made, particularly by cargo lines that have a lot of money to fight such cases. In that dreadful Exxon Valdez disaster which is even now polluting some of the cleanest seas in the hemisphere, in order to get across to the Exxon Valdez, its crew and its owners the seriousness of what that cargo did in polluting the waters, a fine of $200 million was levied. One of the reasons was that it was possible to prove carelessness and recklessness in that case.
Deputy Gilmore's amendment is much clearer than Deputy Taylor-Quinn's in that it asks for the deletion of the whole subsection. What we are attempting is not to give any grounds for that type of difficulty to prove a case where there is no witness other than the offending ship and its crew. I know my party would support the deletion of the whole subsection so that there would be no loopholes that ships causing that kind of damage would use.
I would support Deputy Gilmore's amendment. From what Deputy Barnes has said, it appears she is inclined to prefer Deputy Gilmore's amendment to that of her colleague, Deputy Taylor-Quinn. I think she is correct in that. This subsection should be removed entirely from the Bill. I know accidents happen and if a ship is damaged there will tend to be a discharge of the cargo of bunker oil or whatever it is carrying. Nevertheless the courts are reasonable and I do not think the defence would require such a clause to be in the Bill. I think any court would accept the evidence of a master of a ship. It would be up to the master of a ship to convince the court that he took all reasonable steps. I nevertheless think that in a case like that the master should be prosecuted in the normal way under this Bill and that he should be required to give a reasonable explanation. If he gave that explanation I have no doubt the courts would be quite happy to find him not guilty. It is far better to delete this and leave the finding at the discretion of the courts. This subsection has all the appearance of the good defence clause in the Water Pollution Bill. This is exactly the same kind of thing. It could be a loophole for evading responsibility by irresponsible ship owners.
While I am on my feet I would like to make a point of order regarding the manner in which this legislation is going through the House. I think we would all agree that while this Bill is urgent it is not a matter of day-to-day urgency. It has been before the House for the past year but the Whips have decided to take the remainder of Committee Stage and Report Stage today. There was no representative of the Green Party at the Whips' meeting so I have no idea what the House has in mind. Perhaps the Minister or someone from the major parties here can tell us whether we are going to have Report Stage of this Bill, or are we going to continue with Committee Stage and have a guillotine at 7 p.m. and have no Report Stage? Last week and the week before that we had the same thing. We had Report Stage following immediately on Committee Stage. At this stage really the major parties in this House are saying we do not want Report Stage of Bills. That is the message I am getting. I would have thought the whole purpose of Report Stage is to have it a week or perhaps two weeks after Committee Stage to enable the Minister consider the amendments put forward by the Opposition and possibly accept them on Report Stage or bring in his own amendments. I would appreciate comments from other Deputies present on this.
I think it is fair to say I would not wish the Deputy to be under any illusion about the matter. In accordance with the Order of Business this morning the Committee and remaining Stages of this item will conclude at 7 p.m.
Just to dispose of that matter, in case Deputy Garland is under any misapprehension, if he had been here at the Order of Business today he would have heard my party opposing the proposal to take Committee and remaining Stages by way of guillotine at 7 p.m.
The amendment proposes to delete paragraph (b). I support the amendment. I believe firmly this is a rather dangerous provision to leave in the Bill and it is necessary that it be deleted completely. In fairness to the Minister, in framing the Bill and that paragraph, probably he took into consideration the facts that would surround an incident of the nature envisaged in the paragraph and made allowance for people to act in a reasonable manner. I have no qualms at that approach but, unfortunately for us in this country and other countries on the European scene, we do not deal with reasonable people. Shipping is a cut-throat business. According to some of the stories we have heard the sky is the limit in regard to what shipping lines and ship owners will do. They do not pay their crews a decent wage in some instances. They operate under a flag of convenience and they simply do not care about law and order on the seas or in territorial waters. Once given a loophole in this instance they would dirve a coach and four through it. They would see in this type of legislation a weakness which they would exploit to the full. I have to agree with Deputy Gilmore. The deletion of the paragraph would be the best road to travel in this instance.
Again, I take on board what the Minister has said. Any reasonable person would allow for securing the safety of a ship or of any crew member but in present day commercial shipping business there are ruthless people who will do what they wish out of sight of land and out of jurisdiction of naval and harbour authorities. Whereas the legislation as framed is good in itself, if we are serious about trying to stamp out pollution, either accidental or deliberate, we have no alternative but to delete that paragraph and let the courts decide. I am sure the Minister and his inspectors will have a very reasonable approach to matters as outlined in the paragraph which could arise in regard to a ship in our territorial waters. Taken on balance that paragraph could, should and must be deleted completely for fear of abuse of the system of ruthless people in the shipping business at present.
I want to put the section in context. The provisions of the paragraph proposed to be deleted are based on provisions which I will read in a moment of Regulation 11 entitled "Exceptions in International Conference on Marine Pollution 1973". The provisions are based on similar provisions in the regulations comprising Annex I which deals with oil; Annex II noxious liquid substances; Annex IV sewage; and Annex V garbage. Deletion of the paragraph could mean, say, an Irish registered vessel operating in any place in territorial waters or outside them or any vessel in our own territorial waters could be found in trouble even though they were the innocent party. That is what the MARPOL people were thinking of when they were putting the Convention together; they would be classified as offender, even though in a particular incident they were the innocent party. It struck me as the discussion was taking place here that very recently in Waterford mines laid during the 1939-45 war were caught in nets there. I am very pleased to say nothing happened, but if a boat had been damaged and was pouring oil into the sea at that point, without this section 11 which parallels the regulation, that person would be in a position of being guilty. That is not the type of incident MARPOL are trying to get at. MARPOL are trying to get at the polluters. In the normal way all discharges would be investigated by an inspector with a view to prosecution, of course, and subsequent decisions would be taken on the basis of the findings and the advice of that inspector. We are doing no violence to the MARPOL Convention in putting in section 11.
I will read for the House Regulation 11 which refers to exceptions:
Regulations 9 and 10 of this Annex shall not apply to:
(a) the discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixture necessary for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship or saving life at sea; or
(b) the discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixture resulting from damage to a ship or its equipment:
(i) provided that all reasonable precautions are being taken after the occurrence of the damage or discovery of the discharge for the purpose of preventing or minimizing the discharge; and
(ii) except if the owner or the Master acted either with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result; or
(c) the discharge into the sea of substances containing oil, approved by the administration when being used for the purpose of combating specific pollution incidents in order to minimise the damage from pollution. Any such discharge shall be subject to the approval of any Government in whose jurisdiction it is contemplated the discharge will occur.
I have read that to place in the context of the MARPOL Convention section 11 of the Bill. For that reason I would like to adhere to the terms of section 11.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 10, subsection (3), line 35, after "provided" to insert "having regard to such person's ability to pay".
In moving this amendment I have one intention in mind, that is the ability of a person to pay. This is related to the owners of fishing vessels and so on who may find it difficult to pay for certain facilities in the port from which they operate depending on certain conditions. It is no secret that some fishermen find themselves in dire circumstances due to various factors whether it is fishing quotas or weather conditions and that they would experience extreme hardship if certain charges were laid down. This is an appeal to the Minister to look sympathetically at cases of this nature. Owners of fishing vessels and, perhaps, other users of the port may have to tie up their boats for long periods at the harbour and draw the dole, yet under the regulations laid down would have to pay certain fees demanded by the harbour authority for services rendered. The Minister would probably be sympathetic to people caught in such circumstances. We have had appeals previously from the fishing groups whose boats and ships have been damaged. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to include this amendment in the Bill. The vast majority of shipping groups using the facilities would have the ability to pay and I have no doubt they would pay willingly. This is one aspect of the problems which caught my attention. I am aware from various questions I have put down to the Minister in the past couple of months that some people find it extremely difficult to make ends meet taking into account weather conditions and various regulations governing their trade and their duty. I would ask the Minister to consider including that addition to the Bill. If the Minister gives me some assurance that harbour authorities would take into consideration that aspect and that they would be flexible, I will withdraw the amendment.
I understand the thrust of the Deputy's suggestion but I would like to make a few comments on it. I think it would be impractical and almost impossible to implement it. It is not the ship's master or the crew but the owners of these ships that would be responsible. It is very significant that only about 20 per cent of our total imports and exports combined are carried in Irish ships so that we have coming into our ports and harbours a huge volume of foreign shipping. Over the last couple of years we have been trying to reduce that number as much as possible. We have had a substantial increase in tonnage. It is as well for the House to take cognisance of the fact that only 20 per cent of our imports and exports are carried in Irish ships. These charges are just and equitable. There is a problem in this regard: to charge them directly for the services might tend to encourage them to empty out their waste on the high seas or, at least, outside the territorial waters. Our thinking at present is that the charge should be included in the ordinary port charges so that every ship that comes in will be responsible for the payment incorporated in the port charges. Therefore, their will be no encouragement to a ship to save money by not discharging the waste in the port because it is already paying for the service which is being provided for all ships.
I take the Minister's point which is a relevant one. I accept totally what he has said about inclusive port charges. However, the Minister side-stepped the point I raised about our own fishing vessels which would still be liable to a charge of this nature. I understand the thrust of the Minister's argument. I accept what he has said about foreign ships coming in and having a port charge which would be an all-inclusive cost and which would discourage them from discharging outside of land. I would again ask the Minister to look seriously at the small operator. In fairness, the man who uses the yacht, the punt or whatever the case may be, is liable also for charges and rightly so because if he uses the sea he should contribute to the protection of the environment. I would like to emphasise that I am talking about the owner-operator of the small fishing vessel who would be liable for these charges and who would have to pay them in any event.
I am asking the Minister if the relevant authority would take into consideration the circumstances of the person who may have two or three people employed as crew members and who may find it very difficult to make ends meet. I am asking that he be flexible regarding this charge and say that the harbour authority should take into consideration the person's ability to pay such a charge. If the Minister can give me an assurance that will be done I would be happy with it. He has not said that; he has side-stepped it nice and easily.
Cavan footballers never side-stepped——
They have a happy knack at side-steps but they have not met Corkmen yet.
I played with a team who never side-stepped you if they could walk through you. If the charges are spread over all ships coming in, regardless of whether they use the service, that would mean that the charge would be significantly lower than if individual ships were being charged for the individual services. That is as far as I can go. I understand the point being made by Deputy O'Sullivan.
I am afraid I will have to press my amendment.
Amendment No. 16 in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendment No. 19 is related. I proposed, therefore, for discussion purposes that we take amendments Nos. 16 and 19 le chéile. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following paragraph:
"(b) crewed by sufficient trained personnel as may be specified in the regulations, and".
The Minister referred to the small proportion — 20 per cent — of imports trade with this country which comes through Irish ships. I do not want to open up this sore point with the Minister at this time of the evening but it is down to that level because of the liquidation of Irish Shipping——
Not guilty, m'lud.
Not guilty on that count but guilty of failing to re-establish a national strategic fleet which he promised to do when he was in opposition.
The Deputy left out one adjective, deep sea; he did very well with the others.
I was trying to remember the exact terminology of the Minister's motion.
I remember it.
I would say it is a motion the Minister would like to forget.
No, I would not. The Deputy was not even in the House at that time. We did not have the benefit of his wisdom at that time.
I have read every word of the Minister's motion and I have to say that I admire the eloquence with which the Minister on that occasion put the case for Irish Shipping,——
It is not relevant to this section.
——for the former employees of Irish Shipping and——
When I was in another profession occasionally I used to say to the students that they were entitled to ask me at any time "What is it in aid of, teacher?" What is this tete-a-tete with the Minister in aid of?
This is in aid——
It is not in aid of the amendment.
——of the 20 per cent of trade which comes through Irish ships and the remaining 80 per cent——
It is also in aid of what is said from the Opposition benches.
I want to deal with the remaining 80 per cent, which is what the amendment is about. These are mainly foreign-owned vessels, many of which fly flags of convenience and are manned by undertrained and underpaid crews from third countries. Many examples show that very often these crews do not even understand the safety instructions on board some of those vessels. The Scandinavian Star was a prime example of a ship manned by a crew from a third country who were undertrained and where the safety regulations were not being complied with. There is gross exploitation at sea where owners and operators crew their ships with very underpaid personnel.
Section 14 deals with the equipment of ships and correctly seeks to ensure that ships are properly fitted and operated and comply with the various requirements. However, a very critical element is left out of this — the crew. No matter how well a ship is fitted out or how good its equipment is, if you end up with a badly trained, underpaid and very often overworked crew, you run the risk of accidents, pollution and the regulations which are to be made under this Bill not being complied with.
I submit that many of the vessels now operating in European waters and some of the vessels trading with this country are manned by undertrained, underpaid and overworked crews from third countries and that some ships operate under flags of convenience. It is a very serious omission from the Bill that no account is being taken of the crews. I do not wish to trouble you again, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, with the issue I raised at the very beginning but——
The Chair is never troubled except when contributions are not in accordance with what is traditional or the normal requirement.
The extent of this problem would not be as great but for the liquidation of Irish Shipping and the Government's continuing failure to set up an alternative company to do the job which Irish Shipping did so well for almost half a century.
I support Deputy Gilmore's amendment which seeks to ensure that ships are crewed by properly trained personnel. I am sure the Minister would agree that many ships which fly flags of convenience and which are not crewed by properly trained personnel, contributed greatly to the difficulties experienced by our excellent shipping line which was operated by dedicated and committed crews, of whom we can be very proud. Hopefully, these people will eventually be rewarded and looked after properly.
Before you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, tell me that I am not speaking to the amendment, I want to say that the points raised by Deputy Gilmore, and Deputy O'Sullivan also referred to this issue, in regard to cut throat competition are very relevant. Many of the ships carrying cargo are manned by crews who are not properly trained. This is not the fault of the crew; these people usually come from countries where they have very little say in the kind of training or jobs they get. There have been some horrifying accidents at sea where even the crews were put at danger because of a lack of communication — they may not understand the language spoken on the ship or the safety regulations.
We would be striking a blow in favour of high standards by including the words proposed in Deputy Gilmore's amendment in the Bill. We would also be acknowledging the difficult, claustrophobic and at times dangerous work undertaken by crews on ships. It is appalling to think that the owners of ships can employ people who are not properly trained. The Minister should accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment as he understands what he is trying to do.
Deputy Gilmore should be complimented on bringing this amendment before us. Whereas the section covers the equipment, construction and fitting out of a ship, it completely ignores its crewing. As has been outlined already, there are people involved in the shipping business who are completely and utterly ruthless and cut corners to make a profit. Some people refuse to acknowledge the legislation already in place regarding pollution, controls, disposal of rubbish and so on. I have no doubt that the masters of some ships, if they believed it would save half an hour or an hour on a turn-about, would have no hesitation in dumping their garbage overboard. This is a cut-throat business, and unfortunately we have no control over it. The Minister may say that 58 nations have signed the MARPOL agreement but I wonder how many of those nations have laid down conditions for the crews of their ships. I would say quite a number of them have very suspect crews on board their ships.
This section covers ships registered in the State. I agree that there should be provision whereby the crew must be fully trained to operate a ship and all its equipment such as anti-pollution devices, emergency devices and so on. Very often in the case of airline or shipping accidents we are told that they result from human error. Such accidents can be very costly to the company involved but also as regards pollution of the environment. The amendment states clearly that the personnel of ships registered in the State should be fully trained.
The Minister has taken into consideration the various mechanisms on our ships, some of which are at present antiquated. We should set out regulations with which ship owners would have to comply. Deputy Gilmore is proposing in his amendment that the crew be fully trained. Obviously the master has to have qualifications to steer a ship, but the crew should also be qualified. I would ask the Minister to consider the amendment in the light in which it has been put down. It is not intended as a trap but as a complementary measure to the section. It proposes that the crew members be fully trained to operate the ship's equipment.
In the interests of speed I will not make a lengthy contribution on this amendment. I just want to say that I support it. We still have to get through quite a few amendments and it might be a good idea if we did not engage in repetition. I am not casting stones at any particular Deputy, but we should try to expedite matters.
I am in total agreement with the contributions which concentrated on the importance of trained personnel on ships. Various accidents have been referred to, but I can go back a little further. I was in Belfast on the night the ship went down between Stranraer and Larne. Belfast is a city in which people know a good deal about ships. I remember going into a place of refreshment in Chichester Street where a worker from the shipyards commented that it is extraordinary the risks they take with your life and mine. That is what the contributions here have been all about. It was found on that occasion that the captain of the ship did not want to take out the ship but was forced to do so by the owners. He could have refused but did not, and a lot of lives were lost, including some of the ministers in the government at the time.
While I agree fully with the sentiments expressed here, it is not appropriate under a Sea Pollution Bill to make regulations on the level of training for crews. I will make a distinction between international and Irish conditions. Internationally the crewing of ships is governed by two separate international conventions, the Merchant Shipping Minimum Standards Convention, 1976, the ILO Convention No. 147, and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978. On the Irish level, Irish registered ships are required to comply with regulations on the training of ships' officers and ratings by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1947, and the Merchant Shipping (Certification of Seamen) Act, 1979. Irish shipowners are recommended to carry on board safe manning certificates issued by the Marine Survey Office of the Department of the Marine. In deciding the manning level the Marine Survey Office take into account all the relevant circumstances of the ship and the voyages in which it engages, and applies the principles contained in the International Maritime Organisation's convention, the one I mentioned already, on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, and also the IMO's resolution A 48 (XII.)
We also carry out port State control inspections of foreign merchant ships visiting our ports to ensure that they comply with the standards laid down in the various conventions such as MARPOL which we are dealing with here. Others include the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, the ILO 147 which I already mentioned, and the Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, which I also mentioned. There are other international conventions. The port State control is a very important and effect method of examining visiting ships and finding out if there are defects in them. Normally safe manning certificates are accepted as evidence that a ship is safely manned. As I have said, I agree with the sentiments expressed in the contributions, but this is not the appropriate place to deal with that aspect of the shipping business.
I do not want to prolong the debate other than to say that we are agreed on the principles involved here. The reason this amendment is down as an amendment to the Sea Pollution Bill is that pollution from ships can be caused by negligence on the part of a crew. There is a link between crewing and pollution, and it is important that that link is established in the Bill.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 13, subsection (1), line 20, after "Convention", to insert "and at his discretion, in the case of a ship registered in a country which is not a party to the MARPOL Convention".
Section 18 deals with the survey of a ship that belongs to a country that is party to the MARPOL Convention. It makes no provision for a ship that is registered in a country not party to the MARPOL Convention. Reference has already been made to the extent of abuse that is occurring whereby ships are being registered in third countries and flying flags of convenience, thereby circumventing the requirements of the MARPOL Convention. Even though the owner of a ship may be a citizen of a country that is party to the MARPOL Convention and to all intents and purposes the ship is a ship of that country, because it is registered in a third country it is able to flout the regulations of the MARPOL Convention. Some effort should be made to try to enforce MARPOL standards on countries that are not party to MARPOL and on ships registered in those countries. I recognise it is an international problem but some attempt should be made to try to foreclose on such abuse and the circumvention of the Convention.
Again, I have to agree with my colleague. Unfortunately, there are those in the shipping business who would without any shadow of doubt use the loophole available. They have done so before and they will continue to do so for as long as they are able to. They will register boats in third countries in order to flout any regulations laid down.
It is obvious the Minister has no control over the problem and that it will have to be tackled both at international level and from the European point of view. At issue are our waters which are part of the European Continent and, as such, it is necessary that the issue be raised in that forum in a very forceful manner. Such abuse has gone on for too long, apparently with no control. Those behind it are raking in huge profits and would use a loophole to increase their profits without giving any consideration to the environment. It is time the EC forcefully controlled the way that people can flout the law and abuse a resource that is held so dear by us all and that the House has spent many hours trying to protect. Unscrupulous people in the shipping business would do whatever they wished so long as it brought in a profit. Perhaps I have a hang-up about ship owners, but I know people who have been used and abused by them. I agree with my colleague, as I have said, and I support his amendment. I know the Minister has very little control or power in this regard but it is a matter that should be considered.
I take into consideration the comments Deputy O'Sullivan has just made. I commend Deputy Gilmore for raising the issue again. If the Minister cannot accept the amendment, does he know whether moves are being made at EC level or under international law to cope with the problem? If so, is there any way Ireland can support those moves?
The section is one for members of the club, so to speak — the club of 58; it is to be hoped 59 in the very near future — countries that accede to the MARPOL Convention. It is based on the three MARPOL annexes that provide for the issue of certificates following survey of a ship — Annex I, oil pollution prevention certificate; Annex II, pollution prevention certificate for the carriage of noxious liquid substances in bulk. Annex IV, sewage pollution prevention certificate. Those certificates are intended as a privilege to ships registered in states that are party to the MARPOL Convention. Such ships could be at sea for a lengthy period and their certificates due for renewal. Ships registered in a state which is not party to the Convention could not be given a certificate because such certificates issue from the MARPOL Convention.
Section 18 should not be confused with section 17, which empowers the Minister to make regulations requiring ships registered in a state that is or is not a party to the Convention to be surveyed, inspected, or tested for compliance with MARPOL requirements. Section 18, the amendment of which we are discussing, is an intra-club procedure, while section 17 covers countries that are outside the Convention.
I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 20a:
In page 13, line 31, after "subject", to insert "to such regulations made by the Minister and".
The amendment returns to one of the most fundamental issues debated in discussion on the Bill, which is to ensure that the regulations as drawn up be as definite as possible and the people who administer them be as skilled as possible. The amendment attempts to ensure that section 19 is more clearly defined. The point of the amendment is that while the inspections would naturally be carried out under the direction of the Minister they should be carried out under regulations as drawn up by the Minister. Not only would a survey of a ship be completed, it would be completed within all the regulations drawn up by the Minister.
The word "directions" may seem a little vague. This is an attempt to strengthen the Bill, to strengthen what the surveyor or inspector of ships has to undertake with regard to such inspection and to ensure that such inspections are reinforced by regulations of the Minister. It is an attempt to ensure that the regulations made by the Minister are adhered to in every way.
This section refers to a survey of ships, and the surveyors of ships referred to in the section are officials of the Department. It would not be necessary for me as Minister to make regulations to govern the matters upon which I might seek advice from the surveyors. The purpose of the section is to enable the Minister to make progress reports to the IMO on the implementation and the enforcement of the MARPOL Convention once it has passed into legislation and the regulations have been made.
Is Deputy Barnes pressing her amendment?
No. I take it that that report would be made within the regulations of the Minister.
In that case I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 21b:
In page 16, subsection (2), line 25, after "Minister" where it secondly occurs, to insert "under subsection (4)".
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 16, subsection (2), line 28, to delete "refuse entry into a harbour to such ship" and substitute the following:
"by direction prohibit the entry of the ship into the State or into a harbour or require the ship to leave the State or a harbour and, in either case, to comply with such conditions as may be specified".
Amendment No. 23 is an alternative to amendment No. 22a in the name of the Minister so I propose that they be taken together for discussion. Agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 22a:
In page 16, lines 29 to 34, to delete subsection (3) and substitute the following:
"(3) If a harbour-master has refused entry under subsection (1), the Minister, or a person appointed by him under subsection (4) to act on his behalf, may direct the harbour-master to permit the ship to enter, and to comply with such conditions as may be specified by the Minister, or the person appointed under subsection (4), following consultation with the harbour-master, in which case the harbour-master shall permit the ship to enter the harbour upon such conditions, and the master of the ship shall comply with those conditions.".
This amendment arises from points made in earlier parts of the discussion by Deputy Kavanagh, Deputy O'Sullivan and others. The purpose of the amendment is to bring the harbour master as requested into the consultation process.
I do not wish to reenter the debate we had with the Minister over the past couple of hours about the harbour master. The Minister has not come quite far enough to meet my objections. Unless the harbour master can have dual control of his harbour and of the shipping coming into the harbour, I cannot accept the Minister's amendment. Under this, a person still directs a harbour master to take certain action. Everyone will agree that the harbour master will have the confidence of the people he represents and is fully qualified. The loophole to which we referred weeks ago is still there. Someone could be directed to direct the harbour master to bring in a ship and that could be in breach of the harbour masters' powers. If the Minister could appoint the harbour master as an inspector we would accept the amendment. If the harbour master disagreed with an inspector as to whether a ship could come in, the inspector could override him and he has the power to direct the harbour master to bring in the ship. It is a pity the Minister did not produce an amendment to appoint a harbour master as an inspector. I am voicing the concern of my party and the concern of a number of harbour authorities throughout the country who can see a weakness in this legislation, a weakness that the Minister has admittedly tried to plug. I would ask the Minister to go a little further and accept that a harbour master can be appointed as an inspector. In that case I would accept the Minister's amendment. In the unlikely event of there being a clash in relation to a ship I must stick to my point that the entire section should be deleted unless the Minister is prepared to accept our suggestion. Unfortunately we will not be able to debate this on Report Stage because it has to be dealt with before 7 o'clock. I would be happy if the Minister would meet me more than half way and agree that a harbour master can be appointed an inspector.
We expect the Minister to respond positively.
I appreciate that the Deputy is grateful for my coming half way on this issue. I am walking the plank that far but I cannot go any further. However, I wish to call the attention of the House to a comma which should not be there. It is in line five of my amendment —"specified by the Minister"— followed by a comma which should not be there. It should read "specified by the Minister or the person".
I thought the Minister might have been a little more forthcoming and, as he was not, I wish my amendment to be put.
I came a good distance to meeting the Deputy's case.
We must first put amendment No. 22a in the name of the Minister and, if that is agreed, obviously we will not be able to put amendment No. 23.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 16, subsection (5) (a), line 43, after "State" to insert "and of its passage and destination while in the State and such other information relating to the ship and its cargo as may be prescribed".
We now come to amendment No. 26 in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendment No. 27 is related and amendments Nos. 28 and 28a are alternatives. I propose, therefore, for discussion purposes to take amendments Nos. 26, 27, 28 and 28a together.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 17, subsection (5), between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following paragraph:
"(c) preventing the entry of any nuclear-capable ship into the State;".
The lateness of the hour causes me to agree to take amendments Nos. 26 and 27 together because, while they are related, they deal with different aspects of the nuclear problem. Amendment No. 26 deals with giving the Minister the right to make regulations which will prevent the entry to an Irish port of harbour of any nuclear capable ship. The Minister said earlier that it is Government policy not to permit entry to our ports of any vessel carrying nuclear weapons. As I understand it, it means that the Government have make it know that we do not wish to have ships with nuclear weapons on board visiting our ports. However, there is no way of telling whether naval vessels visiting Irish ports are carrying nuclear weapons because the naval authorities and the governments of those countries will not declare whether they are carrying them.
In October 1990 Greenpeace produced a very interesting report which showed that in the period between 1982-90 one dozen nuclear capable ships visiting Irish ports and that half of those were officially inspected and geared to carry nuclear weapons before leaving their home ports. If those vessels were cleared to carry nuclear weapons, presumably they were carrying them when they left their home ports. What became of the nuclear weapons before they visited the Irish port? It is reasonable to assume that the nuclear weapons were still on board. The report produced by Greenpeace showed that if a vessel is nuclear capable, it is reasonable to assume that it is carrying nuclear weapons. Because of the technology, costs and so on involved, the naval authorities concerned do not send out nuclear capable ships unless they are carrying nuclear weapons; that is the whole purpose of having nuclear capable ships in the first place.
The purpose of this amendment is to identify nuclear capable ships and to prevent them entering Irish ports. When a naval vessel visits an Irish port it may well cause a great deal of interest and speculation as to whether it is carrying nuclear weapons. Many naval vessels do not carry nuclear weapons but, according to the report to which I referred — and which, curiously, has not been contradicted by our Government or that of any other State — Greenpeace concluded it is safe to assume that a nuclear capable ship is carrying nuclear weapons. Therefore, the Minister should be able to make regulations under this Bill which would prevent entry to an Irish port of a nuclear capable ship because of the assumption that it is carrying nuclear weapons and because of the evidence produced by Greenpeace in regard to the years 1982-90.
Amendment No. 28 seeks to insert the following paragraph:
(c) preventing all ships carrying nuclear materials or capable of carrying such materials or whose power is derived from such energy.
When I was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1986-87 I found it embarrassing at times to greet naval personnel from the United States, the USSR, Holland, West Germany and other countries. Usually there was a demonstration on the dockside when a naval ship capable of carrying nuclear weapons came into port. This country has a very good reputation for being hospitable and making visitors feel very welcome. I tried to be as hospitable as I could but, at the same time, I tried to impress on those visitors that they were entering Cork city, a nuclear free zone. It was embarrassing at times trying to get that message across because the naval personnel did not accept it. Their modern weaponry was part of their equipment and they did not have any hang-ups about coming into any port. I tried to explain that this nation did not welcome such weaponry and nuclear armed ships in our waters.
The Government were also very forceful in this regard but there is no way of monitoring the system and that is why I tabled my amendment. A nuclear accident probably causes the worst pollution of all because the effects could last for centuries. Oil pollution is bad enough but at least its effects wear off in time. The effects of a nuclear accident could be felt for centuries. Ships or aeroplanes carrying nuclear weapons seeking entry into our territory should be subject to the conditions specified. I ask the Minister to seriously consider accepting the amendments which have been put down with the best interests of the country at heart. I think they are reasonable amendments and should not present the Government with any problems. The country is considered to have nuclear free status but unless we have control over what ships enter our waters or ports, or airspace for that matter, we are wasting our time implementing this legislation. We could mention the disposal of sewage and garbage but that is insignificant in comparison with the damage caused by nuclear waste. As Deputy Gilmore said, we had better not discuss Sellafield because if we were to do so we would be here all night. We should make it clear to all concerned that we will not allow entry to nuclear powered ships or ships carrying nuclear weapons. I would ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
This is one of the most important sections of the Bill. We cannot let this occasion pass without asking the Minister, once again, to ensure that no ship, submarine or hovercraft carrying any nuclear explosive device or any nuclear waste is allowed enter our territorial waters. Reference has already been made to the many years it takes for plastic to dissolve but with regard to nuclear waste scientists and researchers are speaking in terms of thousands of years before such waste is no longer radioactive. Therefore, we are talking about the most dangerous substance known to man. As I said previously, we welcome the moves towards nuclear disarmament and the fact that countries are moving away from nuclear energy. However, we do not have any information on the number of vessels carrying nuclear waste with the result that the waters are constantly at risk.
I wish to commend the Taoiseach for declaring our seas and waters a safe haven for whales, seals and dolphins.
No more hunting for Moby Dick.
Metaphorically speaking, yes.
I ask the Minister to go further and give a guarantee that the Taoiseach will meet his promise that our waters will have nuclear free status. Otherwise, our waters will not be safe for our citizens, let alone a safe haven for whales and dolphins. The matter is as serious as that.
We are debating four amendments here. Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 in the name of Deputy Gilmore are probably the best or, alternatively, amendment No. 28a in the name of Deputy Taylor-Quinn. What we are trying to do here is make sure that ships with nuclear capability or carrying nuclear waste are covered. With respect to Deputy O'Sullivan, I do not think the amendments in his name would do this. Earlier in the debate we dealt at length with the problem of ships with nuclear capability entering our ports. As Deputy Gilmore said, Greenpeace have presented ample evidence, which has not been refuted, that ships with nuclear capability, and indeed ships carrying nuclear weapons, have entered our ports in the past. We do not want any vessel carrying nuclear weapons to enter our ports under any circumstances but unfortunately, this is likely to happen unless one of the amendments is accepted.
I want to indicate to the House that I regard this as a very important matter and to reiterate the Government's policy on it. Our policy, as the House well knows, is to refuse entry to any visiting naval vessel carrying nuclear weapons and, second, to refuse entry if it forms parts of a naval exercise. I realise that the report quoted by Deputy Gilmore was a very important one with regard to American ships and I have great sympathy with the distinguished former Lord Mayor of Cork who had to take out his geiger counter in City Hall. Greenpeace said there was a probability that a nuclear certified vessel gained entry. That is as far as they went.
What I am saying is that there is a strong and firm two-pronged Government policy which I have outlined to the House, that that is sufficient and is as far as we can go in this regard. MARPOL deals with pollution of the sea. I agree with Deputy Barnes when she says that pollution caused by nuclear waste or by nuclear powered vessels is the most deadly of all. We have in place a firm policy on this matter. The Greenpeace document mentioned by Deputy Gilmore was put together with great care with the aid of the legislation which governs access to information in the United States. There was no categorical statement, à tout court statement, that nuclear weapons had been carried on board visiting vessels nor was there a full conclusion that vessels formed part of a naval exercise. A good deal of the argument is circumstantial but the Minister for Foreign Affairs is taking cognisance of the report supplied to him. I am happy to tell the House that the Government adhere firmly to the two pronged policy which I have just mentioned.
As it is now 7 o'clock I am required to put the following question in accordance with an Order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for the Marine for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, in respect of the sections undisposed of, other than section 42, that the section or as appropriate the section as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee, that the First and Second Schedules and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee, and that the Bill, as amended, is hereby reported to the House, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed."
I do not wish to intervene with your regulations or Orders of the House but I want very briefly to say that I am very grateful to the Deputies and the Opposition spokespersons who contributed to the debate on this very important Bill.