Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 7 Nov 1991

Vol. 130 No. 6

Sea Pollution Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

First, I would like to say a few words about the Title of the Bill and the reasons we have been debating it for so long. I thank the Leader of this House for giving us the time and the flexibility to give this Bill the sort of treatment it deserves. I do not think it is unrelated to the fact that there is not a great deal of legislation coming to this House. Despite the fact that this is an important Bill, symbolically, the fact that we are being given so much time to debate it is a reflection on this House, that there is no legislation coming to it and that the main action in both the other House and this House is all going on offstage. Unfortunately the legislative programme which has been promised between now and Christmas is extremely flimsy and we are not expected to get any major Bills as far as I can see before then. That is a great pity and is something I hope will be sorted out in the context of the internal problems of another party between now and next week.

The Sea Pollution Bill, 1990 is being given some sort of prominence really because we have nothing else to discuss. One of the problems about the Sea Pollution Bill is that whereas it has a very grandiose title it is not at all what it pretends to be. It is misnamed. While everybody in this House has welcomed the introduction of this Bill its contents are minimal. It is not a Sea Pollution Bill in any comprehensive sense at all. We have a habit in this House of giving Bills titles which are highly misleading because sooner or later the Government of the day are going to say: "On the environment we introduce the following Bills..." and this is one of those Bills they will claim to have introduced and the title, which is misleading, will suggest a concern for the environment which is not conveyed by the details of the Bill.

We had the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, a very good Bill, before the House last year which was really a Bill about controlling pollution. We now have this Bill which really is a Bill which ratifies a few treaties. This Bill does not prevent pollution of our seas in any meaningful way; it does so only in a very minor way. This Bill is notable not for what is in it but, like so many other Bills, for what is not in it. It is the omissions rather than the inclusions which are so noticeable about this Bill because it really only ratifies conventions and protocols that were introduced and agreed by various countries as far back as 1973. There are no new initiatives in this Bill. There is no particular national Irish agenda in this Bill. There is nothing in it that does anything specifically for the Irish Sea or the Atlantic coast. I find it extraordinary — and there was no answer in the Minister's introductory speech — that it has taken so long for us to ratify the MARPOL agreement because it was as far back as 1973 that the first of these measures was introduced.

For some extraordinary reason we are apparently, and the Minister can correct me, the last nation in Europe to ratify the MARPOL agreement and the protocols. I would like to know the reason. What has delayed the introduction of this Bill and was no pressure put on us by other nations in the EC to ratify these conventions? It is extraordinary the lack of priority which the Government have given to this Bill, the lack of concern and urgency. It is now 18 years since the protocols were agreed. It is also very odd that this Bill was introduced in the Dáil in July 1990 and we get it over a year later in this House. There was apparently no urgency about this Bill in the first place and there was absolutely no urgency about it after it was introduced in the Dáil itself.

What is noticeable about the Bill is that it deals almost exclusively with pollution of the sea from ships at sea. What it does not deal with is other pollution of the sea which is far more harmful. The amount of pollution of the sea that can come from ships is obviously very limited, although damaging, but the Government missed an opportunity to tackle the main problem, the pollution of the sea which is far more damaging, which is mentioned in the Minister's speech but not in the Bill. The Bill is simply a standard type Bill which has passed through many EC countries but it is a missed opportunity. We did not take the opportunity to look at the pollution of the sea by nuclear waste, by plastics, or by sewage and we did not consider the damage caused by river pollution. We considered the problem of the pollution of the sea by sewage discharged by ships at sea but not the main problem of sewage discharged from the land. It is all very well for the Minister to say in his opening speech that we must also remember our relatively unpolluted waters attract foreign tourists to this country. There is a major and a very regrettable concession in those two words "relatively unpolluted". Some years ago we could have said with pride that our seas and waters were unpolluted, but we now have to content ourselves with "relatively unpolluted" because some of our waters have become disgracefully polluted due to neglect.

Some areas are much worse than others; the Atlantic coast is not as badly polluted as the Irish Sea. We cannot hold our head up in Europe any longer and say we have clean waters when the Irish Sea is heavily polluted by radiation and sewage, and our rivers are polluted by effluent and plastic.

I would like to deal specifically with pollution of the sea by plastic because it is a notable and regrettable omission from this Bill. The Minister said in his opening speech that he intends to introduce regulations to deal with plastic pollution. He does not say what those regulations will be. He said that in framing regulations under the Sea Pollution Bill to cover Annex 5 the disposal of plastics at sea would be prohibited. I would like to know what those regulations will be.

Many Members of this House have continually made pleas on successive legislation that assurances not be accepted as inbuilt parts of legislation. We should not accept that regulations which would not be debated by the House should slip into our legislation and be accepted by this House. With the best will in the world, and I do not question the Minister's integrity or intentions, it means that important legislation becomes enacted by regulations which have not been examined by the House. This is what is going to happen on the plastics issue and on other issues where the Minister is permitted to make regulations.

It is an established fact of marine life that plastic is one of the most damaging substances present in sea water. According to the most recent figures issued by, I think, the United Nations, 5.5 million containers of plastic are thrown or find their way into the sea each day. In an experiment carried out in Iceland, whales were taken in to see how badly they had been affected by sea pollution. It was found that 8 per cent of those whales had plastic in their guts. The sea is being polluted by plastic thrown from ships and coming from other sources in an increasingly horrendous way.

Much of the sewage discharged into the sea is disposed of first in plastic containers. As the Minister knows plastic is a particularly dangerous pollutant as it is virtually indestructable. Many other pollutants are eroded by the chemicals and contents of sea water but plastic is durable, resistant and virtually immune to decay. It is one of the most damaging elements that can be ejected into the sea and I hope the Minister will completely and utterly probihit it in his regulations.

The Minister should also be thinking of making regulations not just about plastic from ships which seems to be his intention in this particular Bill but regarding plastic emitted from land into the sea. That is a very serious problem and is being overlooked by this Bill which makes a minor attack on one aspect of sea pollution only.

I want to deal also with the sensitive area of pollution by fishermen. We must acknowledge that many fishermen are guilty of pollution however unpopular the finding. Plastic dumped in the sea by fishing boats finds its way not only into the sea but into fish and onto beaches. Regulations must be drawn up to control the discharge of pollutants by fishermen, who must be allowed to make a good livelihood but who must be discouraged from abandoning their equipment and dumping plastic in the sea with adverse effect on marine life. Miles and miles of abandoned fishing nets lie off the Irish and European coasts and these are extraordinarily damaging to sea life and their disposal should be regulated.

I would also like to ask the Minister what attitude the Government took in Europe last month, on 28 October, when there was a move in the European Commission to ban large drift nets of more than 2.5 kilometres in length. The result of this move was that, unexpectedly, large drift nets of over 2.5 kilometres in length were banned by the European Community but many environmental groups indicated that Ireland was opposed to this particular banning. I could not discover and the Minister may be able to tell me Ireland's position in this matter because it was anticipated that Ireland and perhaps the UK and France, would oppose the banning of drift nets of over 2.5 kilometres. It seems to me that 2.5 kilometres is an awfully long drift net and the permitted size should be reduced even further if we are seriously concerned about the environment and about sea pollution. The damage these nets could do is quite mind boggling.

Every year, worldwide, hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sea birds, turtles, swordfish and even whales fall victim to these vast strong finemesh nets. Greenpeace organised a very effective campaign to have drift nets over a certain length banned, and I have here a document from Greenpeace urging this Government and other European Governments to support such a banning and citing an incident which took place on the m.v. Sirius. This year Greenpeace produced a report on the destructive impact of French driftnet fisheries in the North Atlantic recording the contents of the catch in just 12 nets. Together with 2,089 tuna, the deadly drift nets had trapped five dolphins, 130 sharks, four swordfish, 82 pomfret, 34 jellyfish, 11 squid and 23 unidentified fish. Animals and fish unintentionally caught accounted for nearly a fifth of the entire catch. These driftnets are not only causing physical damage to the marine environment but are killing significant amounts of marine life unjustifiably.

The sea is being polluted to an indefensible extent and fishermen are acting in a very cavalier manner as they take in their own catches.

It is important to know whether Ireland supported Greenpeace on this or whether we voted against a progressive environmental measure to preserve marine life and prevent pollution of the sea. It would be appropriate to consider smaller permitted length for drift nets in the Atlantic and to implement it. That would be a test of our commitment to the environment because, regrettably, we frequently depend on the international community, whether on the United Nations where the MARPOL Treaty originated or on the EC, to take environmental initiatives and we support them because we have very little option and then claim credit for environmental concern. We take little initiative ourselves on these matters and we have neglected to protect the seas under our control.

I have here a glossy and very beautiful book produced by who else but the Department of the Environment. This book is basically a propaganda organ saying what a wonderful job the Department of the Environment have done, featuring some beautiful photographs and claiming credit for the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990, for which they have no right to claim credit because it is a ratification of an international treaty and not an initiative taken by the Government. It says in claiming credit for that: "the Sea Pollution Bill, 1990, now before the Dáil will enable Ireland to accede to the MARPOL Convention"— big deal — and "empower the Minister for the Marine to make regulations governing the provision of reception facilities at ports and harbours for the discharge of oily residues and other substances." That is one point. "Harbour authorities have been advised by the Department of the Marine that facilities must be installed for receiving ships' waste in all ports in advance of enactment of the proposed legislation." That is all it says or can say because there is not a great deal in this Bill for which the Department of the Environment can claim any credit. As it says, it is simply acceding to the MARPOL Convention and piggy backing on that Convention to claim credit for the Sea Pollution Bill here. They can claim credit for the name of the Bill which is named in such a way as to reflect well on the Government and award credit where it is not due.

I would like to look in particular at the sewage situation. As a new member of a local authority I am finding out a lot, about sewage, mainly. As it may not be a particularly attractive proposition to find out about sewage, I am glad to see three Government Senators here when the action is off stage.

There has been a lot of it around this House during the last few weeks.

This Bill deals only with the sewage boats dump in the sea and does not consider the appalling sewage situation around some of our coasts. It has been self-congratulatory in so many aspects and while the Government benches preside smugly over a Sea Pollution Bill I would ask Senator Mooney to visit my constitutency with me to see the disgraceful sewage situation there. When I was elected to the local authority I was appalled to find an indefensible quantity of sewage in the beautiful area of Greystones, County Wicklow.

Not as lovely as lovely Leitrim.

It is not as lovely as lovely Leitrim because Leitrim is protected from pollution partly because so few people live there. The sewage situation in Greystones is quite dreadful because many housing estates have been built without proper planning and the provision of sanitary services. In a beautiful old village with a lovely coastline, the south beach and the harbour are polluted by raw sewage and, if you walk on the south boach, you will find "no swimming" signs and solids along the beach and floating in the sea. Not too many years ago young and old could bathe on that beautiful beach. That is a very simple example of the destruction that can be done to one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland by bad planning and by neglect.

It is not justifiable for the Government to come before this House with a Bill of this sort which has been delayed for 18 years and call it a Sea Pollution Bill when they are conniving to neglect the sewage situation in Greystones where young people are unable to bathe or picnic or enjoy natural facilities which had been their right for so long. It is even more depressing having talked to the Department of the Marine this morning on this issue to find that the programme for improving sewage disposal in the Greystones area has been put back. For many years to come, despite EC requirements, despite signing conventions, despite our breast beating about the environment, there are going to be raw solids floating around the harbour and the south beach in Greystones. Not the Minister, the Government or the county council care.

I make one plea on this issue. I ask the Minister for the Marine, in Cabinet and out of Cabinet, to make representations to the Ministers responsible, and particularly to the Minister for the Environment, not to allow housing estates to be built or houses to be constructed in the absence of adequate sanitary facilities. It should not be permissible for people to build houses wherever they like in a sprawling mass without the necessary facilities. It is no good saying that the sea will absorb effluent; it is unacceptable now that the sea be polluted in order to facilitate the building of houses. We need better planning especially in coastal areas. There have been improvements in Dublin Bay; there is now a greater awareness of sea pollution possibilities in certain areas and by some local authorities but in other areas, particularly coasting onto the Irish Sea the situation is quite disgraceful; it has been neglected and needs immediate corrective action.

The area of nuclear disposal has been well covered by other speakers and it is another very obvious omission to this Bill. It is ironic to introduce a Bill about sea pollution here while Sellafield continues to emit radiation and to pollute our waters. I thought the Minister might have said something about this in his opening speech because the worst form of pollution in the Irish Sea comes from Sellafield in the form of radioactivity. It is a drop in the ocean, to use a pun, for us to condemn what is happening at sea, to implement international protocols and conventions about sewage in the sea, to prevent small or large ships from dropping their garbage at sea when we continue to tolerate the massive radioactive pollution ejected into the Irish Sea at Sellafield.

I do not understand the attitude of successive Governments to the Sellafield operations which remain the most horrific and indefensible actions by a friendly Government. We tolerate this and there seems to be an attitude among many politicians that while Sellafield is to be condemned there is nothing we can do about it. I do not believe that. Continued pressure on the Brisih Government would reduce or put an end to the pollution consequences of Sellafield. The Irish Sea, as we all know, is possibly the most radioactive sea in the world as a result of Sellafield; this fact also is omitted from the Bill. We need to push far more strongly for a treaty on nuclear waste and to ask why vessels carrying nuclear waste are exempt from the provisions of this Bill.

The answer to that question will be: "It is not in the convention so we cannot put it in ourselves", but we could certainly make rules for our own territorial waters. It is strange that while this measure was being processed over the last 18 years it was not thought worthwhile to introduce a Bill to regulate the activity of visiting ships in our own territorial waters. While implementing the provisions of the MARPOL treaty we could have introduced a Bill of our own to regulate the behaviour of foreign ships in our territorial waters.

It is not reasonable that vessels carrying nuclear waste should be exempt from inspection or from survey by our naval forces, small as they are. It does not make sense that warships should also be exempt because they, along with vessels carrying nuclear waste, are potentially the most environmentally dangerous.

Like many other speakers, I have reservations about the possibilities of enforcing this Bill. I am not sure how many naval patrol vessels we have at the moment but in proportion to the number of ships that travel through our waters the number is minute. Perhaps the Minister could give an indication of how he intends to police this Bill because it is quite specifically about inspectors, surveyors and enforcement. With what will he enforce the Bill? Are we going to depend on our limited naval resources or are we also going to use air patrols to inspect and survey shipping in our waters? It seems that those who wish to break these regulations and who travel our waters unchallenged and uninspected will be able to do so without danger of being brought to book by our policing methods. We do not have the resources to implement this Bill as it stands at the moment.

While the specific provisions of this Bill are very welcome, it is unfortunately so limited that it does not tackle the real problems of pollution at sea. The Bill sets out to achieve the minimum; it leaves out warships presumably because of pressure from our more powerful neighbours, and it leaves out nuclear waste and radioactivity also, presumably for the same reason. It exempts sea pollution which originates on land which is, or course, where nearly all sea pollution comes from. I am afraid that at this stage this Bill is almost irrelevant to the current situation because we are now in 1991 and this process started in 1973.

I welcome this Bill. Ireland has done very little over the years to make any inroads into the reduction of maritime pollution. I agree with Senator Ross that this legislation, as in so many other instances of environmental legislation or action by our Government, has been forced on us by outside bodies. I have been heartened by the extent to which our membership of the European Community has forced us to take the environment more seriously.

I might say to Senator Ross who has been on a local authority for only some months now, that if he had spent the past ten years on a local authority rather than in the Seanad he might have achieved a great deal more. He might also have learned something which I have learned in 17 years on a local authority. Local authorities and people generally are way ahead of the Government, Ministers and civil servants when it comes to pollution problems whether it be pollution of our rivers or seas or as Senator Ross mentioned, from sewage. Perhaps Senator Ó Foighil will agree with this view.

What is important is not to put pressure on the Government — which is what ultimately happens — but to try to stimulate people into realising the important role that they, individually, can play in the protection of our environment. Instead of shrugging their shoulders and asking what they can do because the Government do not care about the environment, people can become aware of their own potential. Sadly it is only when the Government and the political parties see there are votes in the environment issue that they will take action. We have seen a classic example to that with the election of one TD from the Green Party. Environmentalists were heartened by this success, and brought moral pressure to bear on the Government to do something about the environment.

Unlike Senator Ross, I do not wish to chastise the Minister, the Department or anybody else for doing this. At least they are doing something, although it is not enough. I do not mind how much credit the Minister takes for it. I believe that if the Minister feels he is getting the credit, it will stimulate him to do more. I am very happy to commend the Minister, the Department and officials for what they have done.

The reason it has taken 17 or 18 years for this country to ratify the MARPOL Treaty is that the Department of the Marine, like so many other Departments are involving themselves in totally unnecessary matters. The tragedy of this country is that we cannot decentralise and give local authorities and other groups more responsibility. Departments busy themselves with every parish pump activity. They very efficiently and competently scrutinise every detail that has already been prepared by the local authority, regarding water schemes for example. The Department have to oversee everything.

I have been a member of a local authority for 17 years and I am sure other members of local authorities will agree that if we were given some responsibility we might behave responsibly. Members of local authorities are no different from anybody else. How many members of Government and Ministers — started out as members of local authorities? — I must do a survey on the question. I do not know whether the Minister, in his illustrious career, was a member of a local authority, but most Ministers were. Why do they, as soon as they become Ministers and have influence, automatically assume that local authorities are incapable of doing anything efficiently or responsibly?

I would like to remind the Senator we are dealing with the Sea Pollution Bill. She seems to be straying from the Bill.

I am sorry if I am straying from the point but I am simply asking why it has taken the Department 17 years to ratify this MARPOL Treaty. Sometimes, in the Seanad, we get bogged down with details and we do not look at the basic problems. I believe that one of the reasons for the delay is the situation I have outlined. I beg the Minister to consider those points and to offload the burden of work. If he were to ask a civil servant in his Department, if he has enough or too much work, any civil servant would say he was overloaded with work. My sympathies are with the officials. I wish them to be in a position where they could have a more effective, constructive, worthwhile and fulfilling job. I assure the Minister that the local authorities are very capable of looking after these issues if they are given the opportunity. Of course, having been treated like children for so long, they will not grow up overnight; it will take a few years.

We in Ireland have nothing to be proud of in our attitude to sea pollution. We have breached the EC Environmental Directives on bathing water quality regularly. I do not think our record in that area is anything to be proud of. Ireland as an island, with such a heavy emphasis on tourism, must stress the importance of our coasts. Many people are attracted to this country because it is an island country. The heavy concentration of tourist activity from which we derive our tourist revenue is along our coasts.

I have the privilege of owning a house on the west coast, where I go on holiday as often as I can. We have a very beautiful beach near our cottage. I am constantly amazed at the amount and variety of the debris that comes ashore. Every time we go down for more than a night or two we gather up a band of people with bags and sweep across the beach. It is not a very large beach, we could not do it otherwise. I believe that if it were cleaned once a week one would probably be able to gather up all this debris. Most of the debris is plastic with an occasional glass bottle. I agree with the comments of the previous speaker with regard to the control of plastics. We should be doing more to alert people to the dangers to our environment from plastics. We could do a great deal of recycling.

We have been fortunate on the west coast in Roundstone, not to have had serious oil pollution. We have all seen on our television screens the devastating effects of oil spillages on birds. We have also seen seals dying and dead seals being washed up on beaches. These scenes are very alarming and distressing but because of mass communication, people have access to this information. It has helped the educational aspect which is extremely important. We must get across the message that the earth's resources are limited. We cannot continue the crazy attitudes to consumption we have in the western world and the attitude that the environment is there to be used and abused as we think fit.

The general attitude still prevalent in this country that environmentalists impede progress is most damaging and must be discouraged. We must try to get every sector of society, such as fishermen, boating people and people in industry to understand their role and what they have to gain. They do not have to be very altruistic to understand the damage it can do to them if the environment is ruined.

Dumping at sea shows an extraordinarily primitive attitude. Somebody mentioned to me not so long ago there was a time when there were notices on buses saying a person may be fined for spitting on the buses. I have never seen anybody spitting on a bus. The attitude has changed. It is the same with regard to dumping at sea. I am sure that in 50 years time people will look back in wonder at the practice of using the seas to dump all this squalor, and using them to clean out oil tanks. The more we highlight this matter the more we can bring it home to people that throwing garbage into the sea is something which should not be done.

In certain parts of the country people go out into bogs and dump their garbage. Perhaps they will not pay charges to the local authority. That is an attitude which everybody would now deplore. Attitudes to the way we use the seas must also change. We need to see the economic advantages in having clean seas. Fishing and the sale of shellfish are an important part of our economy as is tourism.

I hope we will soon consider the prospect of wave power. Some tentative steps have been taken in this area but I imagine that should they be successful it would be very important that there should not be a great deal of plastics and garbage in the tide because it would interfere with the project.

The recreational aspects of our waterways is important. A survey was done by An Foras Forbartha a few years ago which found that 35 per cent of people wanted to go to the coast for a holiday or a weekend. Bathing, fishing, sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving are very important and Bord Fáilte tell us we must try to develop such activity holidays as we do not have enough sunshine to allow people just to sun bathe.

The aesthetic value of the seas is very important. Anyone who has been a member of the Dublin local authority has a strong interest in and concern for Dublin Bay. My local authority takes a great deal of care over it. We are fortunate in Dublin that we have never had a major oil spill. A small oil spill would be disastrous because of the extent of the sand flats and the beaches. We are very vulnerable. The possibilities for recreation such as swimming at the Bull Island, and at Dollymount are seriously reduced, as they are in other parts of the bay, by the pollution, litter and plastics. It does not all come from the sea. Sadly, some of it comes from people who use the beach.

I share the concern of other Senators with regard to the enforcement of this Bill. I hope it will be taken seriously. I would ask the Minister to give us some assurances as to how it will be policed. I would like to know what the role of the local authorities will be and whether they will be given the resources they require. This Bill is not going to be easy to enforce. When one sees other Bills which are relatively easy to enforce, and where the enforcement has been disastrous, it does not inspire one with a great deal of hope.

I regret that the question of nuclear waste and radiation from Sellafield is not dealt with in the Bill. Dublin Corporation have taken a very active part in endeavouring to bring pressure on the authorities but we have not had the support we would have liked from the Government. The people who are nearest the problem are the most concerned about it. That is why I urge the Minister to involve people on the ground. It is not possible for the Government to do everything and perhaps they could devolve some of the duties to people and groups who would be competent and well able to cope with them.

I hope the local authorities will be given the resources they need to implement this Bill. They will have a role to play in the provision of harbour facilities outlined in the Bill.

Limerick West): I would like to express my thanks to the Senators for their contributions and for the welcome they expressed for the Bill. I wish to record my appreciation also of the concern of Senators for the protection of the marine environment as evidenced by their detailed and constructive contributions to this debate.

Sustainable development, if not survival itself, depends on our making significant advances in our management of the environment. The marine environment, which is two-thirds of the earth's surface, cannot continue to absorb pollution in the quantities up to now. Sea pollution can only be tackled by concerted international action on many fronts, including the elimination of dumping of wastes at sea and from land-based sources, which has been outlined by many Senators. Before answering the many detailed points made by Senators, I would like to refer to some other initiatives, national and international, in the marine environment sphere, to outline the context in which this Bill fits.

Following on the report of the Review Group on Air-Sea Rescue Services, the Doherty report, Slánú, the Irish Marine Emergency Service was established within my Department in May of this year. The service is responsible for the operational aspects of all types of marine emergency, including sea and coastal pollution, shipwreck and search and rescue. A director has been appointed and a chief-of-operations will be appointed shortly. The integration of the coastal radio stations at Valentia and Malin Head, the marine rescue co-ordination centre at Shannon, the cliff and coastal rescue service and marine radio engineers into the service is proceeding. A Marine Emergency Advisory Group composed of high ranking officials of the main land based and maritime emergency services, has also beem established. This group will assemble as a task force during a major marine emergency and will advise me and Slánú on the most appropriate response.

The Pollution Operations Group of my Department which has to date successfully handled the on-scene direction and control of the more recent major marine incidents off our coasts has, more aptly I think, been renamed the Marine Pollution Response Team and has been brought under the direction of Slánú. My colleague, Minister for the Marine and several Senators have complimented the group on their handling of various incidents and for their unflinching dedication over long hours for prolonged periods in containing oil spillages, and in preventing or minimising damage to our growing aquaculture and our flourishing sea fishing industries.

Negotiations between the UK Department of Transport and my Department on the formalisation of a bilateral agreement on co-operation and assistance in dealing with pollution incidents and maritime casualties in the Irish Sea are now at an advanced stage. High on my priority list is accession to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Co-operation and Response adopted by the International Maritime Organisation last year. The purpose of this treaty is to increase the capacity of the countries to deal with major pollution incidents through the sharing of information, expertise and equipment.

The disposal of waste by dumping at sea is regulated by way of licensing under the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981. This Act gives effect to two important conventions, namely, the Oslo Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships and Aircrafts and the London Dumping Convention. The dumping of industrial wastes at sea will be prohibited from 31 December 1995 while the dumping of sewage sludge at sea will be prohibited from 31 December 1998. The only other substance of any significance being dumped at sea by Ireland is dredge spoil from harbour development and maintenance operations. Surveys of approved dump sites for dredge spoil have shown the spoil as causing no harm to the marine environment.

We do not know that.

(Limerick West): The Senator raised that matter. Nevertheless, in accordance with our obligations under the Oslo Convention, we must now undertake more detailed analysis and monitoring of the sediments being dumped. That matter was raised by many Senators and I am glad to say that we are now looking into this area. This is important that we do so.

My Department are drafting a Bill to give effect to the International Convention on Salvage, 1989. Ireland signed this treaty, subject to ratification, in June 1990. The convention is a major innovation in international law. It provides for the skill and efforts of salvors, in preventing or minimising damage to the environment, to be stated explicitly as one of the criteria to be taken into account in fixing salvage awards.

It moves away from the no cure, no pay principle by providing for a refund of salvor's expenses on salvage operations in respect of a vessel which threatened damage to the environment even if the operations are unsuccessful in the sense of salving the vessel or its cargo. It provides a special compensation regime under which a salvor may obtain up to twice his expenses if he has, in fact, prevented or minimised damage to the environment, even if he was unsuccessful in salving property.

This Bill, when enacted, will also strengthen the law on removal of wrecks, which constitute a blight on the marine environment or are hazards. The general improvement of the aquatic environment particularly of the enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, e.g. the North Sea or the Irish Sea, is one of the priorities of the EC's Programme of Action on the Environment, 1987-92. Ireland is actively participating in negotiations on the granting of financial support to projects directly related to protection of the environment in certain coastal areas and coastal waters and to the administrative and technical flanking measures essential to their implementation. Projects relating to coastal erosion, pollution from ships, reduction of nutrient inputs are currently being earmarked for funding. In 1990 and 1991 the Fisheries Research Centre attached to my Department received financial support for a project entitled "Establishment of a database for trend monitoring of nutrients in the Irish Sea". That project has proceeded very satisfactorily and will be completed before the end of this month. The last few years have seen quite a number of initiatives being taken in the area of control and prevention of marine and coastal pollution.

I would now like to deal with some of the specific points raised by Senators. Senator Upton criticised the restrictive nature of this Bill. The Bill should not be seen in isolation. It deals with the deliberate or accidental release of oil and other harmful substances from ships, by enabling the Minister for the Marine to give effect to the MARPOL Convention and to the Intervention Convention. Other conventions deal with dumping at sea. In particular, the London Dumping Convention deals with the dumping at sea of radioactive wastes or other radioactive matter.

Many Senators criticised the exemption of warships or any state-owned ship used for purposes other than commercial purposes. This exemption is part of the MARPOL and Intervention Conventions. Not only that, it is a generally accepted principle of international law that states are immune from proceedings in foreign jurisdictions and state-owned ships are equally immune. Under Article 29.3 of the Constitution, Ireland accepts the generally recognised principles of international law as its rule of conduct in its relations with other states.

If we were to extend the provisions of this Bill to foreign warships and state-owned ships, we would be contravening a generally recognised principle of international law. Foreign countries would most likely refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of our courts. Even if they did, our courts might dismiss such action as contrary to the aforementioned Article 29.3 of the Constitution.

I should point out, however, that each party to the MARPOL Convention shall ensure by the adoption of appropriate measures not impairing the operations or operational capabilities of such state-owend ships owned or operated by it, that such ships act in a manner consistent, so far as is reasonable and practicable, with the MARPOL Convention.

Senators Ó Foighil, Jackman and Costello questioned the expertise of the Garda Síochána to act as inspectors under this Bill. I should point out that gardaí and Naval officers may not be empowered to carry out duties in respect of survey, inspection or tests of ships, equipment and fittings under section 17. It is considered appropriate to empower gardaí and Naval officers to act where no more qualified inspector is available, for example, to board a ship, inspect documents and take statements. Otherwise evidence of an offence may not be obtained before a ship leaves the jurisdiction.

Senator McGowan raised the issue of jurisdiction with particular reference to Rockall. The Bill before the House applies in the State including the territorial seas — out to 12 nautical miles. In addition, sections 26 and 27 empower the Minister to take measures outside the territorial waters of the State following a maritime casualty if there is grave and imminent danger of major harmful consequences through pollution to the coastline or to related interests.

The issue of Rockall falls to be considered in the context of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is not dealt with in this Bill. Nothing in this Bill in any way limits or diminishes our claims in that context.

Senators Jackman and O'Donovan referred to the costs of intervening in shipping casualties to prevent or minimize pollution damage or to clean up afterwards. It is an internationally accepted principle that the polluter pays. In the Kowloon Bridge incident, court proceedings are in train for the recovery of costs. For obvious reasons I cannot comment further. In the case of the Tribulus all costs incurred were recouped within one month. The costs of the Captaine Pleven II have not yet been fully compiled but are expected to be fully recouped. The use of my Department's helicopter in the Atlantis Sky incident will be paid for.

Senator Jackman questioned the availability of expertise in ship construction to my Department. There are 11 marine surveyors in my Department from a variety of disciplines, including naval architects, marine engineers and master mariners. It is hoped to recruit more to deal with the additional work that will arise from the enforcement of regulations under this Act and safety regulations. I am satisfied that the marine surveyors are sufficiently qualified and experienced to deal with the tasks arising from this Bill.

Senator Kennedy and others emphasised the polluter pays principle. This principle is one of the corner-stones of the legislation. Section 12 (3) provides for fees for the use of waste reception facilities at ports and section 42 provides for offenders to pay the costs incurred by public authorities in the investigation, detection and prosecution of the offence.

Senator Doyle asked about the Civil Liability Convention, 1984. That convention has not come into force because sufficient countries have not ratified it. It is unlikely to come into force in the foreseeable future. We are in the process of ratifying the 1969 convention and the 1971 convention.

Why not the 1984 convention with them?

(Limerick West): It is being considered. There are a number of conventions to be ratified and they are taken in order of priority with regard to safety at sea.

Surely we could do them all together.

(Limerick West): I am sure that the Senator, being an ex-office holder knows that these things are not possible, much as we would like them to be. She knows how things operate so I do not have to outline that aspect to her.

I hope we do not have to wait as long as we did for this to be introduced into international law.

(Limerick West): The regulations under the MARPOL Treaty Annex V, are subject to review from time to time by the International Maritime Organisation. It is easier to give effect to amendments agreed by way of secondary rather than primary legislation. However, I am sure the Senator will have the opportunity to see the terms of the regulations relating to plastics as they will be laid before the House in due course.

The question of pollution by sewage was raised by the same Senator. This is a matter for the Department of the Environment. The Government are committed to halting all discharges of raw sewage by the year 2000. The Department of the Environment deal with sea pollution from land and land-based sources. Dumping of sewage sludge at sea is regulated by the Dumping At Sea Act, 1981. Disposal of sewage sludge at sea is due to cease by 1998.

Vessels carrying nuclear wastes are not exempt. Only State owned non-commercial ships are exempt. Senator Ross raised the question of policing. Policing will be carried out on land, sea and air using port State control, fishery patrol vessels and maritime patrol aircraft.

Senator Hederman asked why introduction of this legislation has taken so long. As I have already stated, priority was given to implementing the provisions of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, 1974. Drafting of the Bill proved far more complex then we had originally anticipated. It is important when a Bill comes before a House that everything is in order and that no mistakes are made.

The Senator also referred to greater powers for local authorities. That does not arise under this Bill. The Local Government Reform Act, 1991, envisages greater devolution of responsibility to local authorities.

I appreciated the successful Second Stage debate. The constructive views expressed by Senators will be taken into consideration. I look forward to a positive and constructive debate on Committee Stage of the Bill.

Is the Bill likely to conflict with the powers of the Admiralty Marshal in particular on the detention of ships? I made that point strongly on Second Stage.

(Limerick West): No, there will be no conflict.

There is no prima facie case to be made? There appears to be difficulty in the legal circles with that interpretation.

(Limerick West): There is no conflict.

Even in civil cases?

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.