My Department has an ongoing safety programme involving an appropriate combination of statutory regulation, enforcement and safety awareness promotion with the aim of achieving the highest level of safety at sea and on inland waters. In August last I initiated a review of safety measures on small watercraft. This review is focusing on the requirement to carry and wear lifejackets, licensing requirements, enforcement and increased safety awareness. I brought forward the date for implementation of new safety regulations applicable to passenger boats from June to January 2003. A number of seminars were organised around the country to promote the new regulations.
My Department issued a consultation paper last November seeking views on the adequacy of existing legislation regarding the carrying and wearing of lifejackets. More than 100 lengthy submissions have been received and these are currently being assessed.
As regards Ireland's port State control obligations under Directive 95/21/EC, following a redeployment of resources in the latter half of 2002 when we took on ten extra marine surveyors, my Department achieved an improved inspection performance from 21% in 2001 to 30% in 2002. This is above the 25% inspection ratio requirement under the directive and improves the safety standards of ships using our ports. A further ten vessel surveyors were also recruited recently to ensure that we continue to meet our port State control obligations.
The Maritime Safety Directorate's business plan for 2003 includes an ambitious legislative programme involving new regulations governing domestic passenger ships, fishing vessels, port State control regime and measures to monitor the activities of classification societies that conduct survey inspections on behalf of flag states. The Deputy can be assured that the safety on our waters is a priority for me and my Department in the coming months.