Order of Business. - Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003: Report and Final Stages.

I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Each amendment on Report Stage must be seconded except Government amendments.

Government amendment No. 1:
In page 5, line 27, to delete "PART III OF".

The purpose of this amendment is to make a standard provision in respect of the Short Title of the Bill. It refers to collective citation and construction and provides for commencement.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In page 28, line 25, to delete subsections 2(d) and 2(g)” and substitute “paragraphs (d) and (g) of subsection (2)”.

This drafting amendment refers to section 36.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 3:
In page 28, to delete lines 36 to 43 and substitute the following:
37.–The Merchant Shipping Act 1992 is amended–
(a) in section 9 by inserting after subsection (2) the following:
‘2(A) Where the Minister revokes or suspends a certificate in respect of a particular vessel, and is of opinion that it is in the interests of safety that the holder of the certificate should not be the holder of a certificate or licence in relation to other vessels, then the Minister may revoke or suspend any other certificate or licence held by the holder in relation to any other vessel.", and
(b) in section by inserting after subsection (2) the following:
‘2(A) Where the Minister revokes or suspends a licence in respect of a particular vessel under subsection (2), and is of opinion that it is in the interests of safety that the holder of the licence should not be the holder of a licence or certificate in relation to other vessels, then the Minister may revoke or suspend any other licence or certificate held by the holder in relation to any other vessel." '.
This amendment refers to section 37, which amends section 16 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992. This enables the Minister to revoke any or all passenger boat licences held by an individual who has been found guilty of an offence even when the offence has occurred on another passenger boat. A further amendment is now proposed to enable the Minister to revoke any or all passenger boat licences and passenger ship certificates held by an individual who has been found guilty of an offence even when the offence occurs on another vessel. The earlier amendment would only have allowed the Minister to act in respect of any passenger boat licence and would not have been sufficient to enable the Minister to take action against an individual who owns both a passenger boat and a passenger ship.
At present, section 8(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act empowers the Minister to refuse to grant a certificate to the owner of a passenger ship who has been convicted of an offence. Section 9(2) gives the Minister the powers to suspend or revoke a certificate where an owner fails or refuses to comply with a condition of a certificate but this provision only applies to the vessel to which the certificate applies. The Minister has no power in regard to any vessel the owner may have – that is, the Minister can only act in regard to the passenger ship in respect of which the convictions were made and cannot do anything about any additional ships or passenger boats the owner may have.
The proposed amendment will enable the Minister to revoke any or all passenger ship certificates and passenger boat licences held by an individual who has been found guilty of an offence even when the offence has occurred on another vessel. Senator Tuffy raised this issue on Committee Stage and we have taken her concerns on board. This amendment is preferable to the Labour Party's one because it is stronger.

I am delighted to hear credit being given to Senator Tuffy for this amendment. It is a reminder of how important it is that Bills going through this House are not rushed through, although on rare occasions, Report Stage is taken immediately after Committee Stage. I gather from what the Minister of State said that the Labour Party will approve this particular adjustment to its amendment. I approve of the Minister of State's acceptance of the amendment and its tone.

I thank the Minister of State for what he has done. It is heartening to know he is listening to Members and is prepared to respond to them. The Minister of State said that if an individual is convicted, the Minister cannot issue a licence in respect of another vessel. Does that individual have to be convicted of an offence in Irish or EU waters? What is the position if an individual is convicted of an offence in some far-flung place? The Minister of State said a licence cannot be issued to an individual who has been convicted. What happens if an individual who applies for a licence is before the courts for a breach but the case has not come up and he or she has not been convicted and may not be? Can an interim certificate or otherwise be issued to get over that intervening period?

I thank the Minister of State for taking on board the point we made on this issue on Committee Stage. It is not a hugely significant part of the Bill but it is important. I commend the Minister of State for taking a broad view. We try to give legislation the best possible consideration so from that point of view, I thank and commend the Minister of State for his response.

A situation could arise where an individual may have several vessels, some of which operate in non-EU waters. A serious breach could occur in EU waters on which the Minister would take action. Would the other vessels operating outside EU waters be penalised? The Minister of State said the Minister would revoke other licences.

On the last occasion the Minister of State was here, we raised the issue of the boats coming from the United States to the United Kingdom. Perhaps this issue was raised before I came in but it is the cause of much concern, especially in coastal areas. It appears these ghost ships or whatever one wishes to call them, which are in ports in the United Kingdom, may go back to the United States. I would like some assurance from the Minister of State that we have legislation to deal with this situation, especially when such ships are outside our territorial area. What type of surveillance is being kept by the Irish authorities in terms of the passage of these vessels, especially their passage back to the United States which will come very close to the Irish coastline? Is surveillance taking place? Is there legislation capable of dealing with this situation, especially in the event of a crisis?

I hope we always listen to Senators and their suggestions and ideas. We do not have the monopoly on what constitutes the best legislation. Until now, where an individual holds a licence or certificate for more than one vessel and has been found guilty of an offence in respect of any, the Minister cannot revoke the licence and-or certificate for any remaining vessels the individual may possess. Under the amendment put forward by Senator Tuffy, which we have taken on board, the Minister will now have powers to revoke the licence but can only do so in regard to ships operating from Irish ports and within Irish waters. Irish vessels are licensed and certified to operate in Irish waters but we do not have the power to revoke licences of those operating outside Irish waters.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 28, line 41, to delete "other vessels" and substitute "any other vessel".

In light of the Minister of State's amendment No. 3, I will withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their fine work on this legislation. It is always a pleasure to deal with the Minister of State and I look forward to working on further legislation in the future.

I thank the Minister of State for coming in this morning. The Minister and the Minister of State are probably spending more time in this House than any other Minister. I thank them for the time and effort they are putting into the legislation going through this House.

I endorse those sentiments. I recently spoke to the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, about the fact much legislation was coming through this House. I was grateful for his response in that he said he liked to bring most legislation to this House before bringing it to the other House. It augurs well for the quality of the Seanad and the debate when a Minister gives it recognition in this way.

I thank Senators Finucane, Tuffy and Kenneally. As spokespersons in the Seanad, I find their ideas and suggestions constructive and I am pleased to take them on board.

I thank Senator Daly for raising the particular issue which is of grave concern to people throughout the country. He can rest assured that the Minister, with the Government agencies under his control, will take every precaution to deal with the movement of these ships which are currently based in Hartlepool. He has met the United Kingdom's ambassador here and expressed the Irish concerns and his officials will meet United Kingdom transport officials shortly to express our concerns. The Senator can rest assured the Government is doing everything possible to ensure these ghost ships, as they are commonly known, return to the United States sooner rather than later. They probably should never have been allowed to leave, but that was beyond our control. I also thank my officials for their help and support.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 11.35 a.m. and resumed at 11.50 a.m.