On Second Reading, Senator Stanford raised the matter of pollution of waters, and the Minister asked me to refer to it in particular before leaving the House.
The indiscriminate discharge of oil into territorial waters is prohibited by the Oil In Navigable Waters Act, 1926. Between the months of May and August of this year complaints had, in fact, been received from the Irish Tourist Board and certain local bodies that the east, south and south-west coasts were being polluted by deposits of oily substances. In the absence of evidence that these oily substances came from our own shores it was impossible to employ the Oil In Navigable Waters Act, 1926, to deal with them. The attention of ship-owners, masters and other shipping interests was, however, drawn by an official notice to the necessity for strict compliance with the provisions of the Act, and they were urged to ensure that oil or oil sludge should not be discharged within 50 miles off the Irish coast.
The problem, however, I believe, is not peculiar to this country. It has been under consideration by many countries over a number of years, and in recent years the problem has become more acute, due, it is thought, to a combination of factors—the large increase in oil-burning ships, break-up of tankers sunk during the war, the large-scale importation of crude oil to the newly established British and continental refineries and the practice that they have of dumping at sea deposits of sludge which accumulate in the tanks of oil-tankers.
The question is at present under consideration by the Economic and Social Council of U.N.O. We are not members of U.N.O., but the British Minister of Transport, in pursuance of a recommendation there, has set up a committee of experts to consider what practical measures can be taken to prevent pollution of the waters around the coast of Britain.
In reply to an inquiry from the British authorities, it was indicated that if it would be of assistance to their inquiries, samples of deposits could be obtained from the affected areas on the Irish coast and sent to them. The British, I have been informed, have now indicated that they will be glad to be furnished with samples collected along the Irish coast and arrangements are being made to send these samples accordingly.