This is a technical amendment the purpose of which is to create a new collective citation, Maritime Safety Acts 1992 to 1995, for related statutory provisions going back to the Merchant Shipping Act 1992 and including much of this Bill as now being amended.
Maritime Safety Bill 2004: Committee Stage.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure only relevant provisions of the Bill when enacted will be cited with the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 2000, that is, all except the last part of the Bill, to be renumbered Part 5, which relates to other legislative codes. Part 5 contains five sections, two of which were in the original Bill while three are being inserted by way of amendments.
Amendments Nos. 3, 55 and 62 are related and may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
The purpose of this amendment is to provide for the collective citation of the Harbours Acts 1946 to 1976, which deal with harbour authorities, with the provisions of the new section of the Bill as the Harbours Acts 1946 to 2005. Section 36 updates penalty and other provisions of the 1946 Act in order to bring them into line with current practice.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 4a are substitute amendments and have been circulated on a white list. They may be discussed with amendments Nos. 57 and 63. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These amendments provide for three matters. Amendment No. 4 allows for the collective citation of the Canals Act 1986 with the provisions of section 38 of the Bill when enacted. In addition, this amendment provides for the collective citation of the Shannon Navigation Act 1990 with the provisions of section 39 of the Bill when enacted. Both sections of the Bill relate to the updating of by-law making and penalty provisions of those Acts.
Amendment No. 4a provides that the Bill in its entirety should come into operation one month after it is signed by the President. This is a standard provision for legislation creating new offences.
Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 12 and 13 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
This is a purely technical amendment. It provides for the definition of an additional three specific terms used throughout the Bill, including the new Part 3 being inserted, and so avoids unnecessary verbiage. Consequently, amendments to section 3 of the Bill, definitions for the purposes of Part 2, are proposed so as to remove the definition of those terms not only used in Part 2.
Amendments Nos. 8 to 11, inclusive, and 19 and 20 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
In respect of amendments Nos. 9 and 19, is there some future plan to extend the remit of Waterways Ireland to take over the functions of local authorities in this area? The legislation seems to place Waterways Ireland at a plane just above that of the other bodies. The provisions indicate that local authorities and harbour companies can enter into joint agreements. I assume this means, for example, that local authorities can make by-laws in respect of waters under the jurisdiction of harbour authorities but not in the jurisdiction of Waterways Ireland. I do not argue it would be a negative development for Waterways Ireland to become a more powerful body in the future but I seek the Minister of State's clarification on this point.
A number of ports come under the provisions of the Harbours Acts 1946 and 1976. Does this legislation refer to some of the larger ports, such as Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Shannon, Limerick and so on?
In regard to the Senator's first point, that is not the Bill's intention. Second, all harbour and port authorities, large and small, will be included in the provisions of the Bill.
By way of background, the objective of the Bill is to strengthen the currently inadequate local authority powers. The purpose of amendment No. 9 is to include Waterways Ireland within the definition of "authority" which is used as a convenient shorthand term when discussing the various powers, duties and functions provided to local authorities, harbour authorities and Waterways Ireland under the provisions of the Bill. The term "harbour authority" is similarly being redefined to include harbour authorities established under the Harbours Acts 1946 to 1976.
Waterways Ireland is one of the six North-South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999. It has direct responsibility for the management, maintenance and development of the navigable waters of the island. Specifically, that covers the Royal Canal, the Grand Canal, the Barrow navigation and the southern part of the Shannon-Erne waterway.
When it was initiated in June last year, the Bill could not cover waters under the control or management of Waterways Ireland without agreement first being reached by means of the agreed structures of the North-South Ministerial Council. Agreement has since been achieved with the assistance of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It is perhaps fortuitous that the Bill did not get through previously as we can now use it as a vehicle to include Waterways Ireland.
Amendment No. 14, promoted by Senator O'Meara, has also been tabled by the Government.
I move amendment No.14:
In page 7, line 12, to delete "1994" and substitute "2004".
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for accepting this amendment and for supplying us with the extensive briefing notes on the more than 60 amendments that were tabled to meet the concerns that were raised on Second Stage. When I got those notes, I wondered if it might have been better for the Bill as initiated to have been withdrawn and for it to have been rewritten to incorporate all of them. I assume that there is a good reason why that was not done as the process appears cumbersome. However, I commend the Minister of State and thank him for taking on board the extensive concerns that were raised in this House on Second Stage, which was taken some time ago. I also thank him for responding in the way that he did, which has made the process comprehensible. I wish other Departments would do the same.
Amendment No. 15 is also the same as one tabled by the Government.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 7, line 36, to delete "at least 2.5 metres in length and".
My comments on amendment No. 14 could also be applied in respect of this amendment.
I thank the Minister of State for ensuring the change contained in amendment No.15, which I referred to in my speech on Second Stage. With modern technologies and the new type of vehicles available, the legislation could have become redundant very quickly. This is a sensible move on the part of the Minister of State, for which I thank him.
The importance of the Second Stage debate is demonstrated. The issues were raised by Senators previously. Senator O'Meara and her colleagues tabled amendments that were the same as my amendments Nos. 14 and 15. I acknowledge her kind words about our officials. I asked them to provide the briefing material because of the major changes that have been made. The Senator suggests that we should have perhaps withdrawn the Bill, but the end product will be much the same, and we will possibly get there more quickly. It was important that Senators received a full, comprehensive brief.
Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are similar in that respect. I am pleased that we were able to accommodate Senator O'Meara and her colleagues. Senator Kenneally also raised the issues at the time. The Senators are as familiar with the issues as I am, so there might not be any need to go into more detail, except to say that, given changes in technology, it was important that the 2.5 m threshold was removed. I am glad that there isunanimity on that.
I move amendment 16:
In page 8, subsection (1), line 6, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".
This is a small amendment, the purpose of which is to delete the word "may" and substitute the word "shall". As we know from our experience as legislators in this House, language is extremely important when one is putting a Bill together, particularly with little words such as "may" and "shall". The amendment aims to ensure that the regulation and control of recreational craft, as provided for under the Bill, are achieved. This would not be assured if the word "may" was to apply. The Long Title provides that the purpose of the Bill is "for the regulation and control of" recreational craft. It is important to ensure that it is not a case of permitting something to be done, but requiring it to be done. In other words, the regulation must be required, rather than simply allowed for. My concern is that simply allowing for regulation does not go far enough.
Although I would like to be able to accommodate the Senator, I believe that it should be left to the relevant authorities to decide whether or not to make by-laws under section 4 as it stands, rather than obliging them to make what could be needless by-laws. If there is not a problem for certain local authorities at some ports, why introduce regulations unless they are necessary? Such regulation will be a matter for local authorities. That is why I have decided not to accept the proposal to delete the word "may" and substitute the word "shall". It is better that such matters be left to local authorities to decide. Some local authorities will have very little input in this area. If the wording was "shall", some of them may make needless by-laws. I do not think that having "may" in any way dilutes the Bill or removes anything from it that helps achieve our objective.
I will consider what the Minister of State has said, and will withdraw the amendment, although I may reconsider the matter on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 8, subsection (1), lines 6 and 7, to delete "regulating or controlling the operation of craft".
This is a drafting amendment. My understanding is that the words "regulating or controlling the operation of craft" might be interpreted so as to limit in some way the matters that can be dealt with by by-laws. In any case, I am also informed that there is a grammatical problem with the existing lines 6 and 7 on page 8, which refer to the "operation of craft" by local authorities and so on. That wording is ambiguous. This drafting amendment is designed to be helpful.
I am advised that the words "regulating or controlling the operation of craft" are an essential for any by-laws to be made under section 4. Senators will appreciate that the Oireachtas has responsibility for primary legislation. If the Oireachtas or the Minister delegate responsibilities to other bodies then it would be somewhat dangerous to leave them open-ended or to give the bodies concerned carte blanche to act. We must provide powers that are definite. We need to know their limitations. The Senator also asked about the text, and I will consider that aspect on Report Stage.
In light of what the Minister of State said, I will give him time to consider the amendment for Report Stage.
This is merely a technical amendment. It allows the relevant by-law making authority the discretion to confine its by-laws to specific classes of craft which require priority attention, whether it be jet skis or certain types of speed boats as it may consider appropriate. The purpose of the Bill is to specifically target bad behaviour and nuisance in order to safeguard life and public enjoyment of recreational activity on water.
I welcome the amendment.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following paragraph:
"(v) such other matters as in the opinion of the authority concerned are ancillary or related to the foregoing matters.".
Through amendment No. 21 we wish to ensure that the by-laws can be comprehensive. A by-law prohibiting a person from being carried on a pleasure craft which is unlawfully operated might be held to be outside the scope of the requirement that the by-laws regulate the operation of craft. Accordingly, there is a good case for a general catch-all clause to permit a local authority to provide for ancillary or incidental matters. This amendment is very much in the context and spirit of the legislation, which is to give a particular local authority the necessary latitude to ensure that pleasure craft are as fully regulated as it may wish them to be. It is very important that the by-laws are comprehensive. The legislation goes a long way towards achieving that but this amendment is designed to provide for ancillary or incidental matters giving a local authority extra leeway if required.
I have difficulty in agreeing to this amendment giving local authorities the extra leeway suggested by Senator O'Meara. The amendment is too wide and somewhat vague for the Oireachtas. Under the Constitution we have responsibility for primary legislation and to decide the scope of by-laws that are made. It is necessary to set down in primary legislation the policies and principles to show the specific purpose for which by-laws may be made.
There can be no question of open-ended or carte blanche by-law making powers. The Supreme Court has ruled in past that the Oireachtas is responsible for primary legislation. While we can delegate to the local authorities to certain specific limits, these cannot be exceeded. If we were to go down the road of allowing for such matters as the opinion of the authority concerned we would be vulnerable as this would be too wide. We must stay within the framework of policies or principles. There must be a balance between local area control and national requirements. That is the advice I have received and I am not in a position to accept this amendment.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I will consider what he said between now and Report Stage.
Amendment No. 22 is purely a technical amendment designed to clarify that craft may be boarded after stopping.
Amendments Nos. 23, 28, 56, 59 and 90 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
These amendments are self-explanatory. The purpose of the five amendments is to increase from €3,000 to €5,000 the maximum fine on summary conviction originally proposed in the Bill. This is in accordance with the recent decision of the Attorney General that the maximum fine for summary offences generally should be updated to increase the deterrent effect. In short it is to ensure the increased maximum fine is a deterrent. It is a matter for the courts to decide what the fine should be.
There are proposals to introduce a fines Bill in the future and I hope that would ensure that fines could be increased on an annual or biannual basis in line with inflation or the consumer price index or whatever the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may decide. As that may take some time, in line with the recommendation of the Attorney General we have included this figure.
I have a technical question for the Minister of State. In the context of the amendment, I notice that in section 10(2), a member of the Garda Síochána can arrest a person without warrant. Is this a departure from the norm or is this now normal practice? I know of the concept of citizen's arrest.
The Senator's question would be more appropriate on the section.
I apologise and thank the Cathaoirleach for his guidance. I was not sure if the matter related to this particular amendment.
Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
Amendment No. 24 is consequential on Government amendment No. 25 which provides comprehensively for the power to arrest suspected offenders without warrant. If I may refer to Senator Mooney's question, this is standard practice now and the House would agree that in a situation where jet skis or vessels are in water, in the time a warrant could be obtained for arrest a tragic accident may already have occurred and the legal advice is that this is the correct way to proceed.
I am grateful to the Minister of State for his answer. My reason for asking the question was not just with regard to whether it was a departure from the norm. I am sure the Minister of State can envisage a scenario where a garda on his or her own, although given the right by this legislation to arrest someone without a warrant, may face more than one person.
There could be a potential conflict as, after all, if the garda is contemplating arrest the individuals are in breach of the law. Can the Minister of State reassure the House that this power, while it will be included in the Bill, will be used in a very practical way? I would hate to see a situation where a member of the Garda Síochána might be subjected to any form of physical abuse as a result of having the right to execute an arrest in these circumstances.
This provision would only be used in cases where there are extenuating circumstances. However, even one such circumstance is one too many. This provision is in place to cover potentially serious offences. Those of us living near waterways or on the coast know the consequences and that too often lives have been claimed. I take the point made by the Senator.
This is a matter for the Garda Síochána and the individual, or individuals, involved. I am sure it will not be abused in any way and will be used sparingly. I have no doubt that, as the Garda has requested this provision, it is the sensible thing to do. I take on board the concerns of Senator Mooney. I hope gardaí will not be disadvantaged as a result of being on their own. The general public and the vast majority of those who go to sea are responsible, sensible people. The legislation is wide ranging and must cover all of those concerned.
I have no problem with what is proposed in amendment No. 25. From a practical point of view, how is an authorised person going to operate within the functional area of another authority? If he or she sees somebody acting illegally in another functional authority area or is pursuing somebody who enters the area of another functional authority, how will he or she obtain authorisation quickly? If contact cannot be made immediately, the opportunity for apprehension will be lost. What practical mechanism exists whereby an authorised person can operate in a functional area other than the one to which he or she is attached?
This issue was raised at the initial stages of drafting this legislation. There is provision for hot pursuit, for example, for leaving Waterford and entering the functional area of Wexford or crossing the bay from Donegal to Sligo. If the legislation did not make provision for hot pursuit it would be weak and would not achieve its objective.
This amendment ensures that the benefit of forfeiture should go to the authority in whose functional area the offence was committed. This is to encourage authorities to actively enforce the law in their functional areas. The forfeiture of craft in addition to a fine and/or imprisonment may be imposed by the courts on conviction on indictment of a person for the dangerous operation of a craft. Indictment proceedings may only be taken by, or at the behest of, the Director of Public Prosecutions as per the Prosecutions of Offences Act 1973.
This is a stylistic amendment, deleting unnecessary words.
Amendments Nos. 30 to 36, inclusive, are related to amendment No. 29, so it is proposed that we deal with amendments Nos. 29 to 36, inclusive, together.
The purpose of this amendment is to allow appointing authorities to appoint classes of persons, as well as individuals, as authorised persons for the purpose of Part 2 of the Bill. I will gladly deal with the related amendments Nos. 30 to 36, when required.
When this legislation defines "authorised persons" it refers specifically to gardaí. The Bill also refers to various Harbours Acts which provide for harbour masters in many areas. Harbour master positions are statutory and while they can become authorised persons if the harbour boards appoint them, there should be automatic recognition for them in the legislation. I do not understand the reason they are excluded because, in reality, they will become authorised persons. Their unique position would suggest that they should be included in the primary legislation.
I had anticipated this question. Some harbour masters fear that the Bill's provisions for the appointment of authorised persons to enforce the law against improper use of fast powered water craft would interfere with their safety and their other duties under the Harbours Acts. I am advised that this fear is not well founded.
Harbour masters are appointed by the port companies and I expect that when such companies appoint authorised persons, that the harbour masters would be some of the appointees and would be fully involved in all safety matters. It is not an issue for the Legislature but for the port companies. I would be overstepping my responsibility in naming specific people. It is for me to refer to authorised persons and it is a matter for the requisite bodies to decide who they should be.
This is a technical drafting amendment and provides for a new section 35 of a new part 4 being inserted in the Bill, where they more relevantly belong. It will be dealt with in section 35, where I am advised it lies better and more comfortably.
This is the first in a batch of very substantive amendments. It inserts a new Part 3 into the Bill to prohibit the use of unseaworthy vessels and reckless behaviour on the water and provides for the preparation, publication and revision of safety codes to ensure the safe operation of vessels, including guidance for good environmental practice. Persons in charge of, or accruing vessels are obliged to be aware of and follow any such safety codes relating to the vessels.
The new Part 3 comprises 15 sections, 18 to 32. Section 18 prohibits the sailing of unseaworthy vessels and makes it an offence for any persons in command of the vessel in accordance with the terms of subsection (1) and the owner or hirer of the vessel in accordance with the terms of subsection (2) if they know or discover by ordinary care that the vessel is unseaworthy. Subsection (3) provides for a fine and/or imprisonment on conviction by the court for such offences. Subsection (4) is a standard defence provision to allow for actions taken in good faith.
I welcome the inclusion of these new sections in the legislation. One would think it was unnecessary to legislate for unseaworthy vessels. However, in light of recent high-profile experiences it is necessary to do so, particularly in the context of maritime safety. I welcome this amendment as a powerful addition to the legislation.
This section provides for the seizure of unseaworthy vessels by the Garda and other person authorised by subsection (1). Subsection (2) allows for the recoupment of reasonable costs involved in seizing and detaining any such vessel as a condition for the release of the vessel.
This is the new section 20 and makes it an offence for a person to endanger persons on board a vessel through recklessness or lack of seamanship.
Does this measure go far enough? What is the position should such recklessness cause injury or danger to those in other vessels? This amendment does not seem to deal with the issue. Amendment No. 37, which dealt with the sailing of unseaworthy vessels, takes into consideration what may happen to other vessels or people on board other vessels. However, this amendment does not seem to go as far. Perhaps the Minister of State would comment on the issue.
I am advised that this measure covers any other person or vessels in the vicinity. It is referred to in the early section, but it also covers the situation to which Senator Kenneally has referred.
This is the new section 21 and makes clear provision in primary legislation for prohibiting in section 1 and penalising in section 2 operation of any vessels in Irish waters and any Irish ships in waters anywhere by any person under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. These provisions in primary legislation were recommended by the Office of the Attorney General to avoid challenge to the prohibition.
I have a query with regard to the practical implementation of this measure. I agree totally with the thrust of the legislation. If the person in command of a particular vessel is under the influence of alcohol, the Garda cannot breathalyse him or her. They can only breathalyse such a person under the Road Traffic Acts. Does this mean they cannot do so in this regard? Is this a flaw in the legislation, and perhaps a loophole through which somebody can avoid being convicted?
The legislation to which the Senator refers is not applicable here. The garda can arrest, on suspicion of the person having consumed alcohol, even if the garda does not have a breathalyser at the time. This is a major step forward because heretofore one could be in control of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol and there was very little that could be done.
I thank the Minister for clarifying the matter and thank Senator Kenneally for raising it. I was concerned as to whether the measure contained in this legislation was as rigorous as that available under the Road Traffic Acts. I am assuming it is, but perhaps the Minister could provide reassurance.
I also welcome this measure regarding intoxication. Unfortunately these regulations will most likely be enacted after a major tragedy. There are gardaí and checkpoints on the roads. I had a pleasure craft on the Shannon and it was clear that the vast amount of people in control of such crafts had consumed alcohol. Are we going far enough? Is there a case for having spot-checks at locks and so forth? Unfortunately such enforcements will be put in place after a major incident, perhaps one involving a death. We should be proactive rather than reactive.
Our hands are tied until the Bill is enacted, which is all the more reason for me to take responsibility and co-operate with Senators to get the Bill through this House and on to the Dáil so that it can be enacted as quickly as possible. It is possible that accidents will occur between this and the date of enforcement.
The legislation is rigorous. Suspicion is a more than sufficient basis on which to arrest a person responsible. I would like to consider whether I could tighten this provision between now and Report Stage. If I feel I could introduce an amendment to strengthen this provision I would be happy to do so. Members of both Houses are anxious that all measures be taken.
I hope what I am about to say does not fall on deaf ears. I remind all those going to sea and those responsible for a vessel or its navigation that they have a personal responsibility. While it is not statutory, they have a moral obligation. From what the Senator has said, I take it he has some experience. We want to send out the clear message that as soon as the legislation is enacted we will try to deal with these occurrences. It is sad to think that some people are so irresponsible that they consume alcohol and then navigate a boat on our waterways or our seas. We can only legislate and establish a framework. However, if people are totally irresponsible it makes it more difficult to apprehend them. We certainly will attempt to do so and the rigours of the law should be taken into consideration. These people should be arrested and then it will become a matter for the courts to decide their fate.
The new section 22 complements the new section 21. It makes clear provision in primary legislation for prohibiting persons while on board a vessel in Irish waters and any Irish ships in waters anywhere from consuming alcohol or drugs or both which could endanger other persons on board the vessel or on the water or cause a nuisance. The person in command or charge of the vessel is obliged to ensure compliance with that prohibition. Subsection (3) provides for a fine and-or imprisonment on conviction by the court for an offence under subsection (1). These provisions in primary legislation were recommended by the Office of the Attorney General so as to avoid challenge to the prohibition.
How will these provisions be enforced, particularly late at night? I know of stops along the Shannon used by pleasure craft with public houses nearby. It is quite common for people to get off the boat, go to the pub or restaurant and come back again, which could happen quite late at night. Without having officers at every stop along the way, how can we ensure such situations do not get out of control? People often take a boat on the Shannon for pleasure purposes including birthday parties etc. During the summer in particular, it is quite common that a reasonable amount of alcohol might be consumed although not, I hope, by the person steering the craft. How do we ensure the peace and quiet and good behaviour we all want?
What resources will be given to enforcing these provisions? Senator O'Meara has outlined the issue of people getting off and on vessels to go to hostelries along the Shannon. I do not believe the Garda is fully equipped to apprehend such people who overindulge in alcohol. How will these provisions be enforced?
Nobody can give a 100% guarantee. The person in command of the boat has the responsibility to keep good order. It will not be possible to have an authorised person at every port or stop along inland waterways like the Shannon. Spot checks will be vital and as a deterrent the authorised persons should be seen, which will be a matter for the local authorities or the harbour authorities. If it were all so simple we could ensure that zero tolerance applied and if the same were true for drunken driving on the road we would have no difficulty there either. Once the legislation is enacted we need to send out the right signals. If it is necessary to make an example of some, then so be it. I reiterate my earlier statement that the person in command has responsibility not only to himself or herself, but also to all others on the boat. I am making it very clear to all the prescribed bodies and the authorised officers who will be appointed by those prescribed bodies, that they should be seen and be active.
This new section refers to the prohibition on disruptive behaviour on vessels, which can also be a problem. The section prohibits and penalises disruptive behaviour on any vessel on Irish waters and on any Irish ships anywhere. It is modelled on section 52(2)(iii) of the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1998.
This section makes it an offence for anyone on board a vessel in Irish waters or on an Irish ship in waters anywhere to endanger the vessels or persons on board subject to specific penalties on conviction by the court for such an offence.
This new section makes it an offence for anyone to wilfully disrupt safety procedures on board a vessel on Irish waters or on an Irish ship in waters anywhere subject to specific penalties on conviction by the court for such offences.
This new section makes it an offence to disobey instructions to safeguard life given on a passenger boat or passenger ship subject to specific penalties on conviction by the court for the offence.
This new section 27 authorises the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to prepare and publish safety codes and to revise or revoke them as necessary following public consultation. Subsections (1) to (4) require the Minister to publish a notice in Iris Oifigiúil about any safety codes published or amended, while subsection (5) requires a similar notice for any revocations. This is a standard requirement for public notification of statutory documents. Subsection (6) requires the availability of all current safety codes for inspection on the Department’s website and principal office and other suitable locations. Subsection (7) obliges persons in charge of or crewing vessels to be aware of and follow any current safety codes relating to their vessels.
The new section 28 ensures, in subsection (1), that while it would not be an offence for a person to fail to comply with a safety code, the court may, when trying an alleged offender for any of a variety of serious offences involving vessels, be guided by any current safety codes applicable as to the appropriate course of action to be followed in the particular circumstance. Subsection (2) is a standard provision to secure the admissibility of current safety codes in court proceedings referred to in subsection (1).
Section 29 makes comprehensive provision for the appointment by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources of authorised persons for the purposes of this Part. Subsection (1) is the main provision. Subsection (2) is a standard provision for enforcement personnel to be accompanied by any back-up personnel needed. Subsection (3) requires the furnishing of warrants of appointment under this section to persons other than members of the Defence Forces and dispenses with the requirement on any uniformed authorised persons to produce the warrant or a copy of it to any person affected. Subsection (4) makes it an offence subject to fine and-or imprisonment to obstruct persons authorised to function under this Part.
With regard to the Minister's power to appoint authorised persons under this Part, does this mean the persons in question will be able to operate in any harbour authority area, local authority area or inland waterway or will they be confined to operating in specific areas?
Is a member of the Garda Síochána automatically an authorised person?
Yes. On Senator Kenneally's question, it is my understanding that authorised persons will operate within their functional areas and, if necessary, engage in hot pursuit into other functional areas. I will consult on the issue and clarify the position on Report Stage. I am not certain what would be the position with regard to an authorised officer from west Mayo who happens to be in Dunmore East. We will take the practicalities into consideration.
The new section 30, in subsection (1), provides for the stopping, boarding and inspection of vessels for the purposes of enforcing the new Part 3. Subsection (2) authorises authorised persons and gardaí to request the names and addresses of suspected offenders on board the vessel concerned. Subsection (3) provides penalties for the court to impose on conviction of a person for an offence of obstruction or non-cooperation under subsections (1) or (2).
The new section 31, in subsection (1), provides power of arrest of suspected offenders, without warrant, for the Garda and authorised persons who are commissioned naval officers of the Defence Forces. Subsection (2) extends the power of arrest of suspected offenders, without warrant, to the person in command or in charge of a vessel or a person authorised by him or by her or the owner or hirer of the vessel, provided that the arrest is made by a person in uniform who is suitably trained for the purpose. Subsection (3) obliges an arresting person other than a garda to hand the arrested person over to a member of the Garda Síochána as soon as possible to be dealt with according to law.
The Minister of State noted that persons with powers of arrest must be suitably trained, which is clearly the case with regard to gardaí. What provisions are in place to ensure authorised persons are suitably trained? Are they laid down in legislation and, if not, what procedures will apply?
The issue has not been prescribed in detail. It will be the subject of consultation between the Garda Síochána and the employers of the authorised persons which, in many cases, will be Waterways Ireland and the harbour and port authorities.
This new section is purely a technical one to define certain terms used in the new Part 3 and avoid unnecessary verbiage.
This amendment is the first of a batch of substantial amendments. It inserts a new Part 4 to update vessel safety regulation provisions. The new Part 4 has three sections, new sections 33 to 35, inclusive. The new section 33 updates and restates, for ease of reference, enforcement and administration, regulation-making sections 18, passenger boats; 19, fishing vessels; and 20, pleasure craft; and also section 27, fixed payment notices of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992 (No. 2), as substantially amended by the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act 2000 (No. 14). Subsection (3) of the new section 33 provides on standard lines for the continuance in force of existing regulations as if made under the relevant section of the 1992 Act as now being amended.
This is a substantial and comprehensive amendment. Does the term "pleasure craft" include jet skis?
The new section 33 inserted by the amendment will regulate jet skis. I am particularly interested in the section which will give the Minister power to make regulations providing that the use of a pleasure craft must not create a disturbance or constitute a nuisance. This issue was raised by many Senators on Second Stage, particularly in terms of inland waterways and lakes. Does the new section give the Minister power to make by-laws to control jet skis?
I also seek to have this issue addressed. The House had a spirited debate on Second Stage on what constitutes a nuisance and, specifically, the lack of powers accruing to local authorities to penalise excessively robust jet skiing which could upset boat passage. Am I speaking to the right section? During the Second Stage debate, when the former Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy John Browne, was in the House, some difficulty arose because of Northern Ireland, the waterways and the lack of control whereby the inland waterways did not have the legal right to intervene which in turn meant that neither did the local authorities. I want clarification on that point. I informed the interested parties in my home in Athlone that this Bill was due for discussion this week and that I would raise the point. I want clarity from the Minister of State on the issue.
I am unsure if I am speaking on the same issue, but currently the use of jet skis varies under the by-laws introduced by local authorities. I wonder if this will involve on-the-spot fines and penalties up to €2,000. The Leader of the House has correctly stated that all the Members appear to have a difficulty with jet skis and while one does not wish to make jet skiers out as "bad boys", this is an issue about which all Members are concerned. Will this strengthen the by-laws that are introduced by local authorities?
The amendment appears to be very substantial but is merely a restatement of sections 18, 19 and 20 of the 1992 Act, as was extensively amended by the 2000 Act. This was necessary to improve the law's coherence. In each case, the opportunity was taken to substitute "personal flotation devices" for "life jackets" and to provide for prohibition by regulation of towing anything from or by vessels, except fishing nets by fishing vessels which was not included, and to regulate the number of persons who may be carried. This was covered under various subsections of sections 18 and 19. The opportunity was taken to substantially amend the Bill. I give credit to Members of this House who raised many of the issues and practicalities that they had experienced in the midlands or elsewhere. This was all-embracing.
The Leader of the House, Senator O'Rourke, referred to the inland waterways. When amending the Bill, we took the opportunity to include Waterways Ireland which we could not have done previously. However, due to the fact that——
How is it possible to do so now?
It is now possible because the necessary approval of one of the six cross-Border groups has been secured. We now have the approval and imprimatur which was lacking when the Bill was initiated and the Second Stage was debated in this House in June 2004.
Is this now legal? Can it be enforced now? Previously, doubt existed because it was under the aegis of a cross-Border body and this House did not have the legal right to intervene and interfere. Can the Minister of State spell out who has the authority? How has the Minister of State managed to circumvent or include it? Which agency now has the powers for fining or intervening if there is misuse of the waterways?
I also want the Minister of State to provide an expansion of the points raised by Senator O'Rourke because they are crucial to an understanding of the issue.
I wish to raise another issue which I have raised with the Minister of State on a number of occasions previously. This new Part 4 of the Bill makes provision for passenger boats, fishing vessels and pleasure craft and the three sections mirror each other. In each, the phrase used is "may provide for the registration" of these craft. As far as I am aware, this is the first time in legislation that the registration of pleasure craft has been provided for. Perhaps this is not the case. I know it could be done earlier. Can the Minister of State indicate how it might work? There are many reasons this seems to be the case.
It is very difficult to recognise an individual boat. It reminds me of a racehorse or a Friesian cow, where farmers must draw them and keep their colours and markings to recognise them. Irish pleasure boats, some of which can be quite expensive, are generally not registered. The reason for this is a difficulty with the Department, which is not anyone's fault but is simply the way things are. Currently, getting a pleasure craft registered requires a person to go through 90% of the same procedure as if one were getting the Queen Mary registered. This is not an exaggeration and one must go through all the same steps. I have informed the Minister of State previously that we should have a simple method whereby someone can register a boat very much like one would register a car. In the UK, there are two kinds of registration, one for small boats and the other is like Lloyds list.
This issue will be important in the future. At some stage the Minister of State will regulate that a boat must pass a safety test, a sort of NCT for boats, to ensure it is a safe craft. There must be some element of registration involved and the Minister will never require people to go through the current process. We need an easier process to do it as it is currently very hard to prove. The Revenue Commissioners perform a test and check people who buy boats because they believe a lot of hot money has gone into boats. I have a boat which I can assure the Minister of State was not bought with hot money.
It is a lovely boat. I have been on it.
However, as it was bought abroad and imported, it would be hard to show the exact steps that one went through to buy it, if I had to prove where it came from. One can state where one paid for it and where one put the money. However, boats should be registered. There should be an Irish registration and more importantly, the Irish registration should be part of a European registration.
I have been on boats on the inland and coastal waters of different European countries and there is no consistency. Different rules and regulations exist and in most places one could almost make up papers. Waterways Ireland will find this to be very interesting and entertaining but the only registration document which I possess for my boat is a Shannon licence for being on the waterways of Ireland. Consequently, I have a piece of paper with a number on it from Waterways Ireland, as should all boats on the Shannon.
At one stage, I took my boat abroad and that was the piece of paper I showed, as it was the only piece of paper that I could find. People were happy enough with it. It was in English and as people did not know what it contained, the number was taken and written down.
There is also a hull number on the boat which Lloyds have stamped on every hull that is made. Certain registrations are already happening. Most well-made boats have a hull number which is approved by Lloyds. The phrase used is "made under Lloyds". Consequently, a number is already available which can be followed through in some cases.
The Minister of State's Department should create an easy method to register a boat in the same way as a car, whereby one takes the engine number, the hull number, where it came from, where it was made and the year, registers the number and puts it on the side. All boats in Holland, France and Germany be they for inland waterways or the sea, have registration numbers, no matter how small they are. This is something that we should also do.
The lack of a number also facilitates crime. In recent times, in a number of locations along the Shannon and at sea, boats have been stolen. It is very difficult to trace a boat that does not have a number on it. The Minister and I were both raised in fishing towns and every fishing boat has had a number on it for as long as I can remember. It is very strange that pleasure craft in Ireland do not have numbers. We need a measure for pleasure craft. I apologise for belabouring the issue but it is important in terms of safety, taxation, imports and exports and the regulation of the industry to know how boats are bought and sold, where they are placed, who owns them, where they are and where they have travelled.
Section 18 also contains the idea of regulating for master's or owner's certificates of boats. The House must forgive my use of sexist terminology; we must find a new term as, unfortunately, that is still the term used. Most people now pursue courses or obtain certificates through sailing clubs or groups. It is time for somebody to put it all together. One of Senator O'Rourke's neighbours in Hodson Bay gives training in the use of boats. It is not difficult to demand that people who are going to own a boat undergo training at some stage to show they are fit to do so. I would like the Minister of State to address the issues of the registration of pleasure craft and the regulation of the certificate of competency given to the owners of boats.
I agree with the point raised by Senator O'Toole regarding the registration of boats. It appears to make considerable sense in the context of the new structure of regulation around matters such as safety brought forward by this Bill. It is probably necessary to have some totally transparent way of distinguishing one boat from another, particularly with regard to the gathering of evidence because there are many serious offences arising out of that contained in the Bill. The proposal made by Senator O'Toole is very valid and useful and I would ask the Minister to consider it on Report Stage.
The aim of the small vessel register, which will be known as the SVR, is to provide, as has been suggested by the Senator, a simpler form of registration. The registration of small vessels should then be almost commensurate with small boats and should not be similar in any way to the registration of any fishing vessel. The only vessels currently registered are fishing vessels. Under a new scheme approved last year for potting vessels — many of the smaller vessels that, for the most part, are potting only for lobster and other forms of shellfish — we are currently registering those vessels. Possibly 800 registration numbers are being offered to the owners of potting vessels, which were registered in the past but had no official recognition. Until these vessels are registered, we will not be able to fund them in any way so that they can pursue their activities regarding potting for shellfish. The registration of potting vessels is a mammoth task.
The safety regulations include measures regarding life jackets for smaller boats; the EPERB, with which every boat must be fitted; compulsory training courses in the use of EPERBs, which are provided by BIM or the private sector, and all the other items required on board boats. At one stage, I thought the use of a second boat behind the first boat to tow all the equipment would be necessary but, by and large, this equipment can be stored on one boat. This equipment can be expensive but one cannot compromise on safety. BIM will provide 40% of the funding for this equipment. Surveyors must certify that they are happy, which can be also be expensive but is grant aided.
There are many benefits to be derived from the small vessels register. A public consultation process, which took place in 2004, involved all stakeholders. We will take many of their views and the views expressed in this House into consideration. The small vessels register will form part of an overhaul of the registration process by the relevant directorate within the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Initially, the register will be introduced on a voluntary basis. I am anxious to ensure this scheme is put on a statutory basis, which may require secondary legislation. The maritime safety directorate of the Department is currently evaluating comments received during the consultation process and I will feed the views expressed in this House into this process. It is not as simple as going out and putting a number on every boat but an identification system is needed. For most boats, it is a matter for their owners to decide what name they want for the boat, but this does not constitute registration. I assure the House that the Government is moving on the issue of registration, an area which has been neglected in the past. Potting vessels from 0 to 6 m are being registered. There are different categories of potting vessels: 6 to 9 m, 9 to 12 m and 12 to 15 m. We are dealing with all of that and hopefully, this will be another item on my agenda.
Regarding a matter raised earlier on today, Waterways Ireland, one of the six North-South Implementation Bodies established under the British-Irish Agreement of 1999, now has direct responsibility for the management, maintenance and development of navigable waters. When the Bill was initiated in June 2004, we could not cover these waterways because we had not reached agreement between the agreed structures in the North and South. As a result of the work of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, we have reached agreement leading to the amendment to incorporate harbour authorities and Waterways Ireland.
I am very pleased with the Minister of State's remarks. I completely support the amendment, which is very positive and necessary. I compliment the Minister of State and his officials on bringing it forward.
I wish to clarify a few matters. The small vessel register is a necessary measure. I have changed the name of every boat I have bought even though it is considered to be bad luck in the parts of the world in which the Minister of State and I were born. Boats cannot be traced because of this. There are many boats named Lady Ann, Mary Ann or Ann, as Ann is the most common name for a boat. There must be several thousand of them in Ireland.
I agree this should be introduced on a voluntary basis. It is a good way of beginning and discovering where difficulties lie. A responsible boat owner will go out of his or her way to register because people who have an interest in boating and waterways will wish to do so. I have no difficulty with this.
The Minister of State's comments on secondary legislation worry me. He should give himself power now by introducing a Schedule to the Bill to allow him to establish a system for small vessel registration by ministerial order rather than any other requirement. I was under the impression the Minister of State could do this under the legislation and I see his official nodding. This is the way it should be so the Minister of State can now examine what comes before him.
It is this simple. In terms of registration, every boat has an engine of some description. There is a number on every inboard engine, which can be used to register the vessel in the same way as a car. There will also be a hull number on the majority of boats. These are two ideas that can be followed through on to make the original identification. Whether people change the name afterwards is irrelevant, as the number sticks with the boat.
Waterways Ireland has made a significant improvement. It has removed all the "harbour horrors" on the inland waterways, as Senator O'Rourke and others may have seen.
People may have left their boats to rot for months on end without paying a fee and Waterways Ireland has certainly dealt with this problem.
There is a need for the Minister of State's Department to take an interest in the issue of accessibility to marinas, both inland and on the coast. His own county is poorly served with marinas and I support people who wish to change this. There is a plan to build one there or close to Sligo. I am unsure as to which county it will be in. There is also a proposal to build one in the Erris area.
Places where people can pull in must be developed as there is a shortage of such places on the River Shannon. I spoke earlier on the need for urgent infrastructural projects but the difficulty in having environmentally friendly marinas built and provided along the Shannon is worrying. I have examined some of the proposals that were ruled out of order and would think myself to be as environmentally friendly, conscious and supportive as anyone.
The Minister of State's Department should get involved in supporting responsible people who are trying to provide a good service by supplying proper environmentally-friendly marinas along the Shannon in particular. It is one of the most beautiful waterways in Europe and can stand up to comparison with any of them. I have been on the waterways of France and elsewhere. They are beautiful but it is difficult to beat those of the Shannon-Erne for its combination of beauty and size. Irish people will never appreciate them in this way. Waterways Ireland is making a showpiece of this facility.
I thank the Minister of State, as I know I have gone off point in my comments.
I have a different query to which I need the answer because I will be meeting the people involved over the coming days. There was a difficulty on the inner waterways of Lough Ree, a scenic and beautiful lake that is used by many people. One enters from a little cut from the main body of the lough and onto the inner waterways, which is where the jet skis were causing problems.
I understood the North-South status of Waterways Ireland from our debate in June 2004. The county manager of the local authority meets with Oireachtas Members on a regular basis. At a recent meeting, the programme manager with responsibility for this area stated the authority cannot enforce fines on people causing an environmental nuisance because it does not have the power. Has this issue been settled? All I want is a straight answer as I have not received one.
I am interested in Senator O'Toole's comments on the registration of small craft and whatever. The inner waterways of Lough Ree did not fall under the same umbrella of other inland waterways for some reason, as mentioned by Minister of State, Deputy John Browne, in 2004. Who has the authority to impose fines and what are the fines? If this Bill becomes an Act, will someone be given the necessary powers?
The Senator has now explained her first question on why Waterways Ireland did not have power but does now, which I have answered.
The Minister of State answered it.
This is a different question. I will obtain the information on the area the Senator referred to as a matter of urgency. If it falls within the responsibility of Waterways Ireland, that body must pursue these issues. If the responsibility is not that of Waterways Ireland, it is that of the functional local authority.
When this legislation is enacted it will be a matter for the Government to give approval in principle and a matter for the local authorities to——
They are trying to make by-laws.
——make the necessary by-laws. Fortunately, the Members of this House have been helpful in ensuring the matter was returned. I hope it will not be long before we move on. We must ensure this Bill is passed before the summer with the co-operation of all parties in the other House because if we are to be responsible——
Has it been before the other House?
It was initiated in this House. I will pursue this issue. It is dealt with by the authority of a functional area and Senator O'Meara moved a motion to insist they introduce by-laws but we will leave this to the discretion of the local authorities. It may be unnecessary for some local authorities to introduce by-laws, as some will have no responsibilities in this field.
I will take this opportunity to remind all water users that they have a responsibility. We can introduce as much legislation as we wish but we cannot have an authorised officer at every nook and cranny, whether it is Waterways Ireland, our lakes or offshore. These people should be more responsible.
I favour the establishment of a necklace of marinas around our coast. Senator O'Toole is right and has touched on proposed developments, such as Rosses Point and Roundstone.
Decisions were taken a number of years ago that I wish to assist but I am caught in so far as suggestions of State aid could create difficulties.
It is infrastructural.
The establishment of marinas?
The semi-private sector is carrying this out. It would be fine if the State were providing the marinas but they depend on available funding and the priority issues we must take into consideration. I favour our supporting the private sector in establishing marinas around our coasts. There are various issues because it is not just a question of commencing the establishment of marinas but also of a foreshore lease. In instances where this permission is required there is a statutory process that one must pursue. When an application for a foreshore lease or something else is received by the Department our officials try to deal with it as quickly as possible if it is valid. There are criticisms that applications take a long time, which is true if an application is invalid, but it is the same as a request for planning permission, which cannot be dealt with if it is invalid.
The legislation will be available to me to establish the small vessel register. There may be some commencement dates, etc., but it will be available to me. I do not wish to give the impression we have such a surplus of people in the relevant directorate and in the marine surveyors office that this can be done immediately. We have a plan and we are working on evaluating the comments received as well as those from this House. It will not just be a matter of registering a vessel. It will be a question of looking at all the safety factors to ensure each vessel complies with any safety measures we introduce. We can have all the safety measures and legislation in the world but anyone going to sea without a life jacket or any vessel going out to sea without the basic equipment required is being totally irresponsible.
I am sure we can all think of instances where people have not only put their own lives in danger, which is in their own hands, but have put the lives of the coast guard and those in the other voluntary bodies, of which there are so many around the country, at risk. Today provides me with an opportunity to pay tribute to all those who give their time, including those in the coast and cliff rescue service, on a voluntary basis. Their lives are put in danger and I hope that is something about which individuals going out to sea without the necessary safety equipment will think. Some 90% of people act responsibly.
As regards environmental issues in marinas, on the Shannon and elsewhere, perhaps the local authorities or Waterways Ireland could consider basic recycling facilities rather than have people dump everything overboard, which was the practice in the past. People have become much more responsible and I hope our calls do not fall on deaf ears.
I am delighted the Minister mentioned the coast guard. The Department could be a little more supportive of members of the coast guard on whom our lives very often depend, which the Minister of State quite rightly said, and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. These people should get some type of call-out fee, some element of support or some financial help. They put their lives at risk, particularly the coast guard which is not part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. They are very much dependent on the Department. I know this area is being restructured, which is important. Will the Minister of State ensure the types of supports and structures in place for them are adequate?
It is not necessary for surveys to be carried out by personnel from the Department. If I buy a boat and get it insured, it is my responsibility to get a marine surveyor to survey the boat. There are a couple of marine surveyors in Senator O'Rourke's and Senator O'Meara's constituencies and a number elsewhere in the country. Most boats which have been bought have been surveyed along the way. It should be enough for the Department to recognise the person carrying out the survey. One of the major problems has been having to depend unfairly on the Department to get surveys done. That pressure should not be on the Department and people should use qualified surveyors. There are a number of recognised qualifications for marine surveyors who are very diligent about their work because their reputations depend on it. They will not state a boat is safe if it is not because it will come back to haunt them.
My father used to say legislation which cannot be enforced should not be passed. I am probably turning my back on that good advice. However, legislation should be passed to provide that people on boats should use only eco-friendly detergents. It is a small thing as they are not much more expensive. Most supermarkets along the Shannon and other waterways sell such products, particularly along the inland waterways. Sink waste is more damaging to the environment than sewage and biological detergents cause more damage than anything else. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should introduce legislation, a directive or a ministerial order stating that only eco-friendly detergents should be used on boats.
I thank the Minister of State for tabling this important amendment. He has reassured us on a number of issues, including that of marinas. The European Union is completely wrong about marinas. A marina cannot be moved. It is not a tradeable commodity between the west of Ireland and the west of France. It is only for the use of people who visit it. People will not travel from the west of France to the west of Ireland simply because there is a marina there which is being supported by the State. A marina is like a road; it is an infrastructure for boats.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for the work done on this Bill since we last met. I regret that it looks as if it will not get through the other House before the summer recess when the type of issues about which I spoke are most prevalent. Be that as it may, legislation must run its course. We have been waiting for this legislation and we are glad to deal with it properly and as expeditiously as possible.
I fully agree with Senator O'Toole in regard to detergents. Biological detergents create much foam and are far more dangerous than sewage. One will find great big packages of eco-friendly detergents lined up in the smallest supermarket in Rooskey, which is only a small village. It would be very useful if use of such products were mandatory for boat owners.
I thank Senator O'Toole for his kind comments on the coast guard. He reflected the views of the majority. If the voluntary contribution of the coast guard was converted into monetary terms, it would be quite sizable so this type of contribution could not be bought. From time to time we take the opportunity to recognise the commitment. Recognition may not mean much in voluntary terms but I know those who receive recognition for their endeavours greatly appreciate it and I made presentations in this area last year. However, I take on board what the Senator said and will ask officials to consider it.
On the marine survey, Senator O'Toole will be glad to know that with the introduction of the new potting licences, which has added greatly to the necessity for surveys of small boats, we established a panel of qualified surveyors. That panel is in place and it is busily surveying these boats around the coast. I hope that panel will remain in situ so that when the small vessels register is introduced, it will be available.
On the issue of eco-friendly detergents mentioned by Senators O'Toole and O'Rourke, we can specify good practice in regard to use of detergents in the code of practice in section 27 which is being inserted in the Bill by amendment No. 46. I will consider this issue between now and Report Stage and I will speak to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to see if he could introduce a ministerial order or otherwise. As I said earlier, orders and legislation can be difficult. I will take every opportunity as Minister of State with responsibility for the marine to prevail on all water users to desist from using detergents other than eco-friendly ones. If this needs to be done on a statutory basis, I will establish whether it can be done. I will certainly include it in the code of practice.
I join my colleagues in calling for the use of eco-friendly detergents on boats. Perhaps now is the time to acknowledge we have come a long way as 20 years ago, it was accepted that most rubbish was thrown overboard. The introduction of the plastic bag levy has helped to reduce much of the rubbish along the canals and waterways. Perhaps the Department could liaise with the various county councils. While it would be desirable to have bring centres or bins at harbours where boats go out——
They are usually provided.
The policy of many of the councils is not to provide bins at scenic areas because they have found they create more rubbish. At most scenic areas in County Roscommon the county council is not providing bins because the people fill them with their own rubbish. They were regarded as a green light for rubbish. Perhaps the Minister's Department would liaise with the county councils in regard to the Shannon and other rivers. If no bins are provided, unfortunately those who have no regard for the environment will throw away rubbish.
It is dangerous to talk about zero tolerance but perhaps it could be minimised to reasonable levels. When I speak with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government about eco-friendly detergents I will discuss with him the possibility of speaking with the relevant local authorities to ensure recycling facilities are made available. This does not just happen at harbours. At any recycling facility in any town one will find refuse that should not go into it. It comes down to the moral obligation and the responsible attitude of people.
I will pursue this matter. We have come a long way and people have become more responsible. This applies not only to boat users but to everyone. The use of detergents in the home should also be considered.
The new section 34 updates penalties in the 1992 Act which was amended by the 2000 Act for careless and dangerous operation of vessels. We are restating an updated format in lines 29 to 38 of the original section 19 on page 17 of the Bill.
Is there a bigger fine?
We dealt with that earlier.
I am curious to know why in a number of sections the Minister has increased the fines from €3,000 to €5,000. This is the first place where we are introducing the concept of a €3,000 fine in the Bill. For the sake of consistency perhaps they should all be maintained at €5,000.
The advice of the Attorney General was that the fines should be increased from the original €3,000 to €5,000 in this case, and from €500 to €3,000 and from €10,000 to €25,000. The purpose of the increased fine in this instance is to deter people from acting in a careless and dangerous manner while operating vessels. It is the maximum fine. It will be a matter for the courts and the judge of the relevant court to decide the fine that should be imposed. It is largely a deterrent.
On the question of safety I support this section. As far as I can recall, the section deals with those who steer, drive, manoeuvre or pilot their boats. A significant number of the call-outs are by those who have been careless in their planning and have taken no notice of the weather. They think that because they have a new boat with a big engine they do not have to worry about anything. Suddenly they find that at a headland they are not ready for the force 7, 8 or 9 winds on the other side. There should be a requirement in passage planning for any distance that people check on the weather.
Met Éireann is helpful and good at what it does but in terms of improving safety at sea it requires significantly greater resources. For most of the coastland of the UK and even of Northern Ireland, it is possible to get a localised sea area forecast. For example, one can get a full forecast for the day from, say, Lizard to Land's End, a basic 30 miles. In Ireland the sea area forecast, which is on the radio three or four times a day, covers Slyne Head to Malin Head, and down the whole Irish Sea including Roches Point. The difficulty is that it can never be completely correct, particularly for small boats.
The Minister of State knows as well as I do that the weather in Dingle Bay might be quite placid but around Blasket Sound to the north side of the peninsula it could be roaring a force 6, 7 or 8 and could be a yachtsman's storm. If more resources were provided to Met Éireann it could, in addition to the national forecast provided to RTE radio, provide a more detailed sea area forecast to the local radio stations, such as Hyland Radio, North West Radio and Radio Kerry. For example, Radio Kerry could give the forecast from Mizen Head to Valentia, Valentia to the Blaskets, the Blaskets to Kerry Head, Loop Head or wherever. In this way one would get a much more detailed forecast. That should be done. Met Éireann has the ability to do this but it does not have the resources to make it available.
Met Éireann also provides personalised weather forecasts. This morning I asked it for the detailed four day forecast over the next three or four days for the Fastnet and Plymouth areas which it would e-mail to me. It will provide that kind of forecast very effectively but many do not know it is available. Such a service should be more freely available. Met Éireann is required to pay for it and is entitled to charge for it. I make no complaint about that. It does its work well and is efficient. However, in terms of safety the State should be prepared to pay for that type of forecast. More money should be put into Met Éireann.
Apart from the creation of Waterways Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement, Irish Lights and Trinity House in the UK merged into one. Nobody noticed, there were no arguments and the new arrangement is working well. At the time I was concerned that the same arrangement were not made with the weather service. Had it been done it would enable people on both islands to get the kind of weather forecasting the boating fraternity can get in the UK, where a narrow sea area forecast along the coast is provided. We need a similarly detailed forecast in Ireland for greater safety, to create greater awareness and to prevent people taking chances when going out on boats.
I had responsibility for the Met Service in my previous position as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I will have a word with the Minister of State, Deputy Bat O'Keeffe, to see what can be done. I have visited Met Éireann and I am aware it does excellent work and provides a fairly accurate service, as reflected by Senator O'Toole. If there is any doubt about the weather, any responsible person going to sea should establish the situation for themselves. That is their personal responsibility. If this information is collated it is wrong that is not made available.
It is not a question of there being much additional cost involved. I hope local radio stations will take a greater interest and possibly make a slot available a number of times each year for their own specific areas. There is little point in Radio Kerry giving a forecast for north Donegal, for instance. I will raise this matter with the Minister. I emphasise the importance of the co-operation of seafarers in checking the weather forecast before they set out because it shows a responsible attitude. The meteorological office in Glasnevin provides information by telephone if required. It would be beneficial if the system could be streamlined.
I appreciate that gesture by the Minister of State. It is a good idea to suggest that the local radio stations along the coast would give a coastal sea area forecast for the smaller areas such as from Mizen Head to Valentia, Valentia to the Blaskets and the Blaskets to Loop Head with Clare Radio giving the local sea area forecast for the seas around its coast. This would be a significant development which would be welcomed and would add to safety. It could be done at small cost. I appreciate the Minister of State's positive response and look forward to hearing the response of the Minister of State, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, to that request.
This new section 35 replaces the original repealed section 17 of the Bill with provision for repeal also of sections32 and 34 of the 1992 Act.
This is a substantive but straightforward amendment. It inserts a new section 39 in the Bill to amend the Shannon Navigation Act 1920.
I support this amendment. However, I ask the Minister of State to consider a final point. The last survey of Lough Ree and Lough Derg in the River Shannon was taken in 1847. I have never seen a survey of Lough Allen. The survey of Lough Ree and Lough Derg was done by the British Admiralty and is surprisingly accurate. However it is no longer useful for modern use. It would be worthwhile for safety reasons if the Department took the opportunity to have a new survey done of the lakes in the Shannon.
I suggest the department of oceanography in NUI Galway could do the survey. It is not satisfactory to be using charts prepared in 1840. Some of the towns such as Dromineer are not marked and towns and villages on the Shannon are not mentioned as ports in that survey. Two years ago I personally tested some of the depth readings and the charts were surprisingly accurate. The eastern side of Lough Derg, which will be very well known to the Leas-Chathaoirleach, has not been very well surveyed. It contains rocks, shallows and shoals which could be marked on a new chart. I ask the Minister of State to consider a survey of both lakes in order to create a new chart. Some of the oldest sailing clubs in Europe are based on Lough Ree and they have a lot to offer.
I support the Senator's comments. I have used Lough Key and the River Shannon system and I am amazed that resources have not been directed into better mapping of the rivers and lakes. Many of the boat hire companies have filled the void to a certain extent but that is not enough. It is unforgivable to see tourist boats caught on rocks because they did not have the proper maps.
I suggest that part of the fee for registration of boats should include the provision of a map. It should be a legal requirement for all boats to carry maps. I can safely say that 80% of those who sail pleasure craft have no idea where the rocks are. Many of the rocks and shallow areas are not properly signed and the situation has not improved in the past 20 years. Many fishing clubs who are familiar with the river erect makeshift buoys but this is not good enough. The safety of boat users is being compromised.
As I am a layman, I presume this would be a substantial task as the last survey was done in the 1840s. I will discuss the matter with the responsible relevant authorities whether those are one of the agencies or within the Department. The Senator has made an interesting proposal. Many people are navigating our waters by means of markers and buoys. The sonar system is a great advance which can indicate the existence of rocks and dangers.
The amendment to the Long Title is required in order to cover the subject matter of the additional part being inserted in the Bill. Part 3 provides for the prohibition of non-seaworthy vessels and reckless behaviour on the water and for codes of practice for vessels to secure safe and environmentally friendly operations.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their forbearance during this debate. It was somewhat startling to discover that while the original Bill consisted of 20 pages, the amendments ran to some 27 pages. However, after such a lengthy and comprehensive discussion on Committee Stage, Members will agree we have succeeded in producing legislation that is superior to its original inception.
We often complain when there is a delay between Second and Committee Stages but the delay in this instance has ensured we have a better Bill. We will accommodate the Minister on Report Stage in this House to ensure the Bill is processed as quickly as possible. Everyone will be anxious to facilitate the enactment of the legislation before the summer, if possible.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for the comprehensive and reassuring explanatory material he has provided on this legislation. It would be a welcome development and would make our job much easier if all legislative matters were explained in such a manner.
Fine Gael broadly welcomes this Bill. Our approach is to emphasise that safety must be the greatest priority and concern. The best way to achieve this is through strict enforcement of rules and regulations which ensure we do not damage the vibrant marine culture. It is during the summer months that most maritime accidents take place. One concern in this regard is that the timing of the Bill means it will probably not be enacted until after the summer. I accept the numerous amendments have improved the legislation but it should have been signed months ago.
The provisions regarding the range of fines from €1,000 to €5,000 are welcome. Rules and regulations are all very well but how are we to know they will be enforced? The Garda Síochána and the Irish Coastguard are hopelessly under-resourced and the Bill will be rendered much less powerful if it is not accompanied by the provision of extra funding. How are the regulations to be communicated to those who might act recklessly in our waters and endanger themselves and others? Will there be an appropriate publicity campaign to ensure everybody is aware of the penalties arising from such behaviour? What type of review of the new regulations will be established to monitor their effectiveness? Such a review should take after a number of years.
It is desirable that there should be a new explanatory memorandum as this is a much changed Bill to the Bill as initiated. I hope the legislation ensures people can still enjoy themselves in the waters and that lives will be saved.
Ba mhaith liom cur leis na focail atá ráite ag na daoine eile anseo. Gan amhras, tá an Bille seo thar barr. Tá a lán rudaí nua ann, agus braithim gur féidir linn an-dul chun cinn a dhéanamh i gcúrsaí sábháilteachta. It is important that we attempt to ensure this legislation is enacted before the summer, if only for the propaganda value of raising awareness as Senator Feighan observed. This would signify a clear new beginning for the new boating season which starts at this time of year. The Government should be mindful of the importance of this.
I reiterate the sentiments of my colleagues in thanking the Minister of State and his officials for the work that has been put into this legislation. The officials in particular can take a bow for their achievement. This Bill is an example of the type of legislation which it is better to initiate in this House. That approach allows the issues to be spun out and facilitates a softer and less confrontational debate. This is the manner in which legislation should be put together.
This is an important Bill and the Minister of State is to be applauded for his role in its development. Incidentally, I look forward to his responses on the issue of local sea-area weather forecasts and the question of registration and new soundings on new lakes. I wish the Bill well on its journey through the other House.
Ba mhaith liom úsáid a bhaint as an chúpla bomaite atá agam chun mo bhuíochas a chur in iúl do na Seanadóirí a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo i rith an lae. Is iad sin na Seanadóirí Kenneally, O'Meara, O'Toole, Phelan agus O'Rourke, daoine a chuir an-suim sa díospóireacht seo, agus is dóigh liom go mbeidh an tacaíocht chéanna ag teacht ó na Seanadóirí eile nach raibh ábalta bheith anseo inniu. Mar a dúirt an Seanadóir O'Toole, cuireadh tús leis an reachtaíocht anseo, agus tar éis na díospóireachta ar an Dara Céim, leis na leasuithe atá tugtha isteach agam féin agus ag an Fhreasúra, beidh an Bille seo i bhfad níos treise agus níos féarr.
I thank Senators for their support for the amendments which I sponsored. Many of the amendments arose as a consequence of the Second Stage debate which took place last year. That comprehensive debate reflects the importance of the Seanad. I also recognise the amendments submitted by Senators, a number of which I was able to accept. I hope Senators understand and appreciate the rationale I offered in respect of those two or three others I did not accept.
The Bill, as amended, is a considerable advance on the original in terms of protecting our waters against the improper use of fast-powered craft. In addition, it clearly provides for the promulgation of safety codes by me as Minister of State with responsibility for marine matters to secure the safe and proper operation of vessels generally. I assure Members that water safety will remain a priority on my agenda. I salute the courage and professionalism, as noted by other speakers, of all involved in our marine rescue services, comprising the official and voluntary sector. I trust the Bill will ensure greater safety awareness on the part of all water users and will reduce pressure on the services. If people act more responsibly, not only will they not be putting their own lives at risk; they will also not be putting the lives of those in the rescue services at risk.
As far as holding a review at a later stage is concerned, let us get the Bill through first, and I will give consideration to the proposal thereafter. The Bill has been substantially changed, so I will publish a new memorandum for the Bill as amended by the Seanad. I thank Senators for their kind words and, I think, for the fact that the Bill has changed substantially. It was important that Senators received briefing material explaining the many amendments that I found it necessary to introduce. I recognise the long hours and days of work that have been put into the Bill by officials in my Department. I thank Senators for also recognising that fact, and I concur with their sentiments.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?