This section provides for the duties of a salvor to carry out a salvage operation with due care, in particular with regard to safeguarding the environment. Do I take it that the salvor will be held responsible for any damage done to the environment?
This puts emphasis on the salvors to minimise the damage done to the environment when carrying out salvage operations. This is the purpose of the section. Obviously, there will be a certain amount of damage to the environment but this section is putting the emphasis on the salvors to minimise it.
Who has the power to monitor the salvage operation?
The authorised officer is the person in charge.
Is it hard to find the owners of these vessels because when one reads the newspapers it seems that some of them live far away and some have foreign crews on their ships? At times there is great difficulty ascertaining the real owners of some vessels and their home port. Is that a problem? We may have legislation but enforcing it is another matter. The owner and master of a vessel plays a prominent role in what is listed as their obligations. It might be difficult to trace them and to make them honour their duties in this regard.
There are times when it is difficult to trace owners but we would be able to trace the ownership of a vessel through the agents. Deputy Kemmy is right. It can be difficult to trace the owner of a vessel especially if they are operating under a flag of convenience. Normally the agents would be responsible for the ship when it comes into our jurisdiction.
I would like to follow up on Deputy Kemmy's point. What happens when the owner cannot be located? Who is responsible for the wreck?
We covered that this morning. It would appear that the owner or the salvor takes the cost of the salvage of the vessel. There can be times when it is difficult to locate the owner of a vessel.
In that instance, would the Department of the Marine take possession of the vessel and dispose of it if the owner cannot be found?
No, not necessarily. That is not provided for in the legislation.
Could we incorporate it in the Bill?
We could look at it for Report Stage but this would make the State liable for high costs which the alleged owners could easily escape paying if they thought the State would pick up the bill.
After investigating every avenue possible, and where the Department has failed to locate the owners, would it not then be the responsibility of the Department to dispose of the wreck or the vessel?
We have delegated that responsibility to the local harbour authorities or to the county councils involved. The local harbour authority will have the responsibility of removing the wreck.
How can the local harbour authorities have responsibility? Take for example theBardini Reefer in Castletownbere. How can the harbour-master in Castletownbere remove that wreck when he has no funds at his disposal and whatever money he collects must go to the Department of the Marine? Surely the Department can compensate the harbour-master or finance him so that the wreck can be removed.
This Bill gives the harbour-master power to use the legal machinery to recover the costs of removing a wreck. The Deputy is saying that the owners may not be located but that is unfortunate for the local authority involved. The Department would not pick up the bill for removal of the wreck because that responsibility lies with the harbour authority.
The Minister misunderstands me. In the instance of the Castletownbere harbour-master, his hands are tied completely because whatever money he collects in harbour dues must be submitted to the Department of the Marine. He cannot go ahead and remove that wreck from the harbour until such time as the Department of the Marine provides the funds for him to do so. Common sense should prevail and the Department should, in the case where the owners cannot be found and the insurers are not available, give the harbour-master the necessary finance to remove the wreck.
I take the point made by the Deputy. If the harbour authority has no funds to remove the wreck then it should make a case to the Department of the Marine. The Bill empowers the harbour authority and that is as far as I am going at present. I am not saying that if the harbour board cannot find the owner and if it has not got sufficient funds to remove the wreck that the Department should do it. The harbour authority has the power to do it and if it cannot do so, it should then apply to the Department of the Marine and see where we go from there. The Bill does not cover that eventuality because it would be open-ended and responsibility for every wreck around our coasts would lie with the Department.
It would not because they are only isolated cases but such cases can prove very convincing. I ask the Minister to consider introducing an appropriate provision on Report Stage.
We will look at cases of where an owner cannot be found.
What about cases where there are no funds available to the harbour-master?
We will look at that to see if the Deputy can be accommodated.