Wednesday, 14 May 2014
Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Bill 2013: Committee and Remaining Stages
Subsections (1) and (2) are standard provisions regarding the Short Title of the Bill and the collective citation as part of the Merchant Shipping Acts dating from 1894.
I propose an amendment to section 1(2) which deals with the collective citation of the Merchant Shipping Acts. The amendment is necessary following the enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014. That Act includes amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993 and provides for an updated collective citation of the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 2014 at section 1(15) of the Act.
On the basis that the current Bill will be enacted during 2014, the proposed amendment to section 1(2) of the Bill provides for the inclusion of the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Bill in the collective citation of the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 2014.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 in section 2 are standard provisions that set out the way in which the Bill and the terms used in it are to be interpreted. Similar to the amendment to section 1 of the Bill, arising from the enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, a revision of the definitions of “Merchant Shipping Acts” and “Sea Pollution Acts” in section 2 of the Bill is also required. The Local Government Reform Act 2014 provided at section 1(15) for an updated collective citation of the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894 to 2014.
Amendment No. 2 will update the definition of Merchant Shipping Acts in the Bill to reflect the updated collective citation. The 2014 Act also included amendments to the Sea Pollution (Amendment) Act 1999 and the Sea Pollution (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 and provided at section 1(20) for an updated citation of the Sea Pollution Acts 1991 to 2014. Amendment No. 3 updates the definition of Sea Pollution Acts in the Bill to reflect the change in the Local Government Reform Act 2014. These are technical amendments to ensure the references in this Bill marry with changes to other legislation in recent times.
Section 6 is a standard provision in legislation relating to the making of regulations or orders by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Act. I am proposing an amendment to section 6, amendment No. 4, in order to correct a section cross-reference. The reference in section 6 should be to an order made under section 30, dealing with ports of registry, rather than to section 29, dealing with the delivery of a certificate of registry of a ship lost or ceasing to be owned by qualified persons. It is a correction.
I move amendment No. 5:
The advice I was given on section 9 was that there are advantages to yachts voluntarily registering. It is analogous to the way in which establishing and proving ownership of a house by way of title deeds removes much of the risk when buying and selling. The buyer knows the seller owns the boat and knows there is no outstanding mortgage. Registration is also useful when visiting foreign ports for proof of ownership. The amendment my colleagues in sailing put forward is that the period of registration should be for each period of ownership rather than every five years. They say this is analogous to a house purchase and it should only be necessary to re-register on transfer of ownership. In this day and age, the fear was that if they had to register every five years the question of charging would enter into it, and a future Minister - not Deputy Varadkar - might see it as a handy source of revenue. The yacht people are trying to protect themselves in that regard, but there are also extra administration costs. Distinguished sailors who have travelled from Howth to Greenland and the north of Russia suggested these amendments and I put them forward in that spirit if they are of assistance to the Minister.
In page 13, line 18, to delete “for an initial period of up to 5 years” and substitute “for the period of each ownership”.
One of the fundamental gaps in the existing ship registration legislation, which I hope to address in the Bill, is that there is no provision for ship registration renewal. The absence of a requirement to renew ship registration has led to a situation in which ships remain registered on the existing register books even though they have ceased to exist. They stay on the register forever. To address this, the Bill introduces the concept of ship registration renewal, along with a facility to refuse registration and a facility to remove ships from the register, all with the goal of improving the quality and accuracy of the new Irish register of ships.
Section 9(9) of the Bill provides that ship registration on the new register will be granted for an initial period of up to five years and may be subject to compliance with standards or conditions of registration as provided for in section 18(10). After this initial period of registration, and subject to satisfactory completion of the registration renewal process in accordance with section 19 of the Bill, a ship registration may be renewed for further periods of up to ten years in duration. A decision to have an initial registration period of five years rather than ten years in all cases was taken having regard to the transitional provisions that will apply to Irish ships registered on the existing register books under the 1955 Act, as provided for in section 14 of the Bill.
The effect of the amendment proposed by Senator Barrett is to replace the requirement to renew registration after specific time periods with a provision that would only require registration renewal when a ship is being transferred to new ownership. Instead of renewal every five years, the ship would only be renewed on transfer to new ownership. My concern is that the proposed amendment would remove the clear and unambiguous requirement to renew ship registration, involving an interaction with my Department, at specified times after initial registration and therefore would weaken the capacity to ensure the register was accurate and up to date. We want to require people to re-register every five years so that they have some engagement with the Department and so that the register is up to date. We do not want to have a situation similar to the one we have with vehicles, in which cars are often not taken off the file and remain on the file long after they have ceased to exist.
Another concern is that vessels can change ownership regularly. Some vessels may not change ownership for years but, equally, other vessels may change ownership a number of times, possibly even within the same year. A requirement to renew registration in such circumstances would be onerous for shipowners and my Department. Although the Senator's intention is the opposite, there is a risk that people would have to register their vessels more frequently than every five years.
Registration on the Irish register of ships will be subject to compliance with relevant standards or conditions, or both, of registration. The requirement to renew registration will afford the Department the opportunity to confirm that a ship is meeting the particular registration or safety requirements that may apply to the category of ship involved, or the part of the register on which the ship is registered. These provisions are all proposed in the interest of ensuring a high-quality register and ship registration regime that not only appears as such but also has in-built safeguards to ensure, in so far as possible, that the information contained on the register is accurate and that relevant safety requirements applying to ships are being complied with.
In circumstances in which no changes have been made to a ship, it is not envisaged that ship registration renewal process will be onerous. I support the concept of periodic time-defined ship registration renewal and, for the reasons stated, propose to retain the timeframes for ship registration renewal as outlined in the Bill. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept the amendments proposed by Senator Barrett. In the interest of aiding an accurate register and equality of treatment of all ship owners registering a ship on the register, I request the Senator to withdraw the proposed amendments.
Essentially, we are changing the term "rescue" to "emergency response", because all emergency responses are not necessarily rescues. They may be, for example, the recovery of a body or something similar.
I pass on compliments to the Minister from the same seafaring people, who say that machines such as personal watercraft or jet skis are an absolute menace and frequently travel at high speed in confined waters. The Minister's registration of jet skis has support among the maritime community, who say they are a danger to swimmers. It is important to note that these jet skis are used by drug smugglers as well. In general, I am communicating support from the maritime community for what the Minister is doing to put controls in place. They have felt for some time that this was necessary. Therefore, section 11 is an important contribution to safety at sea.
I thank the Senator for his remarks. When the Bill comes into effect and people have to register their jet skis and small fast-powered craft, we might run into a slightly different issue, but the vast majority of people who use beaches or lakes will be glad to see them properly registered. I wish to clarify something I mentioned earlier in respect of registration. Renewal of registration will be for up to five years initially but thereafter will be at intervals of ten years.
Amendment No. 8 proposes to address the issue of ships that should be entitled to register on the Irish register of ships but do not yet hold the requisite certificates or licences to allow this to happen. For example, a ship that requires certification or a licence to register on the register as a particular type of ship, such as a passenger ship or a sea-fishing boat, can be granted a non-operative registration under section 18 to facilitate the issue of a passenger ship certificate or a sea-fishing boat licence prior to the final registration on the Irish register of ships. Such ships will be granted a non-operative registration initially under section 18(3) to facilitate certification or licensing. Therefore, the Bill must facilitate this non-operative registration on the register in advance of the completion of full registration.
Section 12(1)(c) as it stands would preclude the non-operative registration of ships on the register by requiring the holding of relevant certificates or documentation in advance of any kind of registration on the register, which is not the intention. For this reason, the proposed amendment to section 12 removes paragraph (c), and the intent of the provision has been amalgamated into amendment No. 12 to section 18(6)(l) of the Bill.
Amendment No. 12 is a consequential amendment arising from amendment No. 8. It arises from the removal of section 12(1)(c). I consider it important that the intent of the provision should be provided for elsewhere in the Bill. Section 18(5) enables regulations to be made in respect of ship registration applications, and subsection (6) provides a non-exhaustive list of matters that can be dealt with in those regulations. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to include, as part of the registration application requirements generally, the possibility of a requirement relating to compliance with any acceptable conventions, the Merchant Shipping Acts and the Sea Pollution Acts, as well as the production of any necessary certificates or other documents.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are textual amendments to improve the wording of section 18(2), which relates to provisional registration. Amendment No. 11 relates to section 18(3), which provides for the granting of non-operative registration in respect of a ship owned by a qualified person to facilitate the certification or licensing of the ship. The purpose of non-operative registration is to assist ships that require certification or licensing in order to register as a particular type of ship. For example, a sea-fishing boat will require a sea-fishing boat licence and a passenger boat will require a passenger boat licence. A cargo ship will also require certain certificates. Non-operative registration allows a ship to be on the register subject to compliance with any relevant certification or licensing requirements that apply to the ship. Non-operative registration may also be necessary after the initial registration of the ship in circumstances, for example, in which a licence or certificate has expired or a ship is sold and transferred to a new owner. In the case of a sea-fishing vessel, for example, the new owner may not have completed a process to obtain a sea-fishing boat licence under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003.
Amendment No. 11 seeks to clarify the position and address the fact that non-operative registration may arise at any time, including as part of a process towards initial full registration, or subsequent to registration, in the circumstances mentioned where necessary certificates or licences are no longer available. It is connected to the previous set of amendments.
Government amendment No. 11: In page 20, to delete lines 9 to 11 and substitute the following:"(3) (a) Where a ship that is owned by a qualified person is without certification or a licence required under law, the Minister may grant registration ("non-operative registration") in respect of the ship to allow for the certification or licensing of the ship. (b) Non-operative registration under paragraph (a)may be granted at any time when a ship is without certification or a licence required under law.
Government amendment No. 12: In page 20, to delete lines 37 and 38 and substitute the following:"(l) demonstration of compliance with requirements of any applicable conventions, the Merchant Shipping Acts and the Sea Pollution Act, including with regard to holding certification and other documentation in their required form.".
Government amendment No. 13: In page 27, to delete lines 10 to 13 and substitute the following:"24. (1) A person visiting the State who operates domestically -(a) a personal watercraft, (b) a recreational craft 24 metres in load line length and greater, (c) a small fast powered craft, or (d) a ship carrying not more than 3 passengers for the purposes of angling as exempted in the Licensing of Passenger Boats (Exemption) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 274 of 2002) from the requirement to be licensed under section 14 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1992, which is not registered in another state, shall apply to the Minister for a certificate of registry of visitor registration.".
Similarly to other countries, Ireland is entitled and obliged by international maritime law to fix the conditions that will apply to the granting of its nationality to ships, the registration of ships in its territory and the right to fly the Irish flag. My Department is the national authority when it comes to preparing legislation relating to ship registration requirements in Ireland. When the decision was taken to extend the scope of mandatory registration to new categories of ships operating in domestic waters in Ireland, I was conscious of the impact that such requirements might have on ships that visit our country.
For this reason, section 11 provides that a registration confirming nationality of another state will be an acceptable form of registration for compliance purposes with the registration requirements of the Bill. Furthermore, in recognition of the fact that some visiting ships, in particular, non-commercial ships, may not have such registration confirming nationality, a new category of visitor registration is being introduced under section 24. The section establishes a requirement for the registration of personal watercraft, recreational craft 24 m and greater in load line length and small fast powered craft owned by people visiting the State and operating domestically when the craft is not registered in another country. This will accommodate the use of such craft in Irish waters for short periods not exceeding three months, that is, for people on holidays or taking part in sports events, in cases where the craft is not registered in another state and would otherwise be required under section 11 to have full registration on the Irish register of ships in order to operate domestically.
In view of the fact that the requirement to register on the Irish register of ships is being extended to small commercial angling boats, as described in section 11, it is important to extend the possibility of visitor registration to such vessels if they are visiting Ireland and operating domestically. Essentially, this relates to vessels that are not required to be registered in the home country but which are visiting Ireland where they must be registered. It allows them to take up a form of visitor registration for a short period.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 seek to amend section 24(1) and (2)(a) to include small angling boats, as described in section 11(1)(c). In the absence of such amendments, visiting angling boats fall into this category and would be required to have full registration on the Irish register of ships to operate domestically. The option of visitor registration provides for a less onerous registration procedure for small visiting angling boats which only propose to operate in Irish waters for a period not exceeding three months. Visitor registration will not confer nationality, but it will facilitate the State's awareness of the vessels operating domestically in Irish waters. This will also assist in the identification of owners of ships if search and rescue operations are required.
Visitor registration will be a simplified form of registration for a nominal fee in order not to impact negatively on tourism. We wish to facilitate tourism. Every effort will be made to maximise the use of the online facility for this category of registration. It is envisaged that awareness will be promoted through tourism and transport channels, websites, etc.
Amendment No. 15 is a technical amendment to the wording of section 24(2)(c).
Government amendment No. 14: In page 27, to delete lines 14 to 17 and substitute the following:“(2) (a) The Minister may, on application to him or her, grant a certificate of registry of visitor registration in respect of a vessel referred to in subsection (1) owned by a person visiting the State and operating domestically which is not registered in another state.”.
I seek the Minister's assurance that this will not reduce visitor numbers to Ireland. He was promoting the wild Atlantic way, boating tourism, the Fastnet Race and so on. I hope there will be no administrative burden involved because it is an area of tourism in which we can expand considerably, given the exciting Irish coastline, especially along the west.
Certainly, it is not intended to do so. Everything we do is designed to facilitate tourism but not at the expense of safety or search and rescue operations. If we find that it is too onerous or that it creates complications for tourism or the tourism industry, we can certainly look at it again. I am happy to undertake to do this. When it comes to all of these things, whether it be people bringing animals into the State, vehicles in the State or anything else, we have to balance our desire to facilitate business and tourism with the need to protect the public and ensure safety.
This is a simple amendment. Currently, the person responsible must put the port in which the ship is registered underneath the name of the vessel on the stern. Now that we are going to require jet skis and other things to be licensed, we have no wish to prescribe that it must be written on the stern. This is because it is not necessarily clear where the stern of a jet ski is, for example. The amendment requires that the port of registration be indicated on the ship, but it does not necessarily have to be on the stern.
Section 35 sets out the requirements for the hoisting of national colours or the Irish flag on a ship in different circumstances. Section 35(1) sets out the circumstances where the national colours are required to be hoisted on Irish ships. Section 35(2) clarifies that fishing boats are exempt from the requirements of section 35(1) and continues an existing exemption in section 12 of the Mercantile Marine Act 1955 in recognition of the fact that fishing boats must enter and leave port on a regular basis.
Given the proposed extension of mandatory registration to personal watercraft and small fast powered craft under the Bill, the amendment seeks to extend the exemption to these craft. It means that for practical purposes these vessels will not be required to hoist the national flag in accordance with section 35(1) when operating domestically. Again, we are not going to require small craft to display the Irish flag, although they may do so if they wish.
This amendment will mean that the section will not apply in the case of a ship using the letters "IRL" with a number issued for sports purposes. For example, a sports craft might be registered in another state but the person sailing it could be representing Ireland. This will allow the person to display the letters "IRL" to show they are representing Ireland without being prosecuted for assuming Irish character.
These amendments arise from an issue brought to my attention on Second Stage by Senator Hildegarde Naughton and by some of the representative bodies. They relate to the powers of the harbour master under the Harbours Act 1996 to give certain directions to the master of a ship using the harbour for the purpose of regulating the navigation of that ship. In response to the points raised, amendment No. 19 proposes to include harbour masters in the list of authorised persons under subsection 39(1). This makes a harbour master an authorised person for the purpose of the enforcement of sections 11, 23, 24, 26 to 28, inclusive, 37 and 39 of the Bill and any regulations made under those sections, as set out in section 40. Amendment No. 20 is a consequential amendment.
Government amendment No. 20: In page 35, to delete lines 32 to 35 and substitute the following:"(7) In this section— "authorised officer of Inland Fisheries Ireland" means an authorised officer of Inland Fisheries Ireland for the purposes of section 301(1)(b) (as amended by section 8 of the Inland Fisheries Act 2010) of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959; "harbour master" means a person— (a) who is construed to be a harbour master in accordance with section 37(1) of the Harbours Act 1996, or (b) appointed as a harbour master by—(i) a local authority, (ii) the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine under section 4(2)(d) of the Fishery Harbour Centres Act 1968, or (iii) Iarnród Éireann — Irish Rail.".
Section 56 deals with notices by intending mortgagees. Subsection (3) provides for regulations in regard to the giving of "priority notices" by intending mortgagees of ships that are to be registered on specified parts of the register. The existing provision does not include a reference to intending mortgagees of ships registered on the register, although subsection (1) does allow such persons to inform the Minister of their interest under the proposed mortgage. The purpose of amendment No. 22 is to remove this anomaly by amending subsection (3) to facilitate priority notice regulations for ships already registered on the register.
Section 60 relates to the transfer of a registered mortgage of a ship. Amendment No. 23 is a technical amendment to revise the wording in subsection 60(1) so as to be consistent with the other "an approved form" references in the Bill. Instead of "a form approved by the Minister", we want to use "an approved form" consistently throughout the Bill.
I compliment the Minister on bringing the Bill through the House. He has introduced a great deal of legislation in both Houses, which is reflective of his vast portfolio. I hope this Bill helps to streamline the registration process for merchant ships. It is particularly welcome that we are dealing with safety aspects in respect of jet skis and so on, which were not dealt with in previous legislation.
I congratulate the Minister on bringing the Bill through the House. As Senator O'Neill observed, the safety provisions relating to jet skis and other small craft are very welcome. I thank the Minister for taking on board Members' views, as he did in Senator Naughton's case. I welcome the Bill in its entirety.
I join colleagues in thanking the Minister for his conduct of the Bill, which deals with matters of maritime organisation and safety. His replies to points raised were full and comprehensive, and he was open to the amendment proposed by Senator Naughton in regard to the duties of harbour masters. We learned a great deal in the course of this debate.
I thank Senators for their interest, co-operation and efficiency in allowing us to bring this important Bill through the House. Maritime legislation is very complicated and difficult to get one's head around when one is not dealing with it every day. I am confident, however, between our deliberations here and subsequently in the Dáil, that we will emerge with an improved Bill which provides for a much better system of registration, one that is fit for purpose into the future. I will be back in the Seanad after the elections to deal with the remaining Stages of the State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill 2014, when I look forward to engaging once again with Senators.