Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Bill 2013: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages
This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 118 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad.
For the convenience of the Senators, the Cathaoirleach has arranged for the printing and circulation to them of these amendments. The Minister will deal with the subject matter of the amendments in each group. I have also circulated the proposed grouping in the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matter that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil.
Group 1 refers to amendments Nos. 1 and 2. I will begin by saying some words on each of them.
The objective of section 9 is to provide for the establishment of a new register of ships, which will consist of different parts for the registration of different types of ships, and also to allow registration to take place for different purposes. Section 9(9) confirms that registration on the register may be granted for an initial period of up to five years with subsequent renewal periods for up to ten years each in duration. They may be subject to ongoing compliance with registration requirements or conditions attached to registration as provided for in section 18(10) of the Bill.
The first amendment, amendment No. 1, is a technical amendment. It corrects a section cross-reference in section 9(9) by replacing the reference to “section 18(8)” with a reference to “section 18(10)”. The change there is to change a subsection from (8) to (10).
Amendment No. 2 relates to section 9(10) of the Bill. This was prepared for the purpose of making regulations in relation to the access to the register, as well as fees for such access. The provision was drafted with a view to providing as much possibility as possible in respect of such access, given the move to a new central and electronic register of ships which will be addressed in a separate IT project. The principle of access and continued access to the Irish register of ships has been clearly stated since the outset of the development of the Bill and there is no proposal to change the level of public access. This Bill, with the amendments that are there at present, looks to maintain public access as it stands.
I made clear in the Dáil, where I was responsible for the Bill on that Stage, that it is my intention to make this register as visible and open as possible. I have to recognise, however, that there are certain limitations and needs that may arise in terms of commercial sensitivity or private or secure information. The mechanics or process of obtaining such access or information may change as we move to an electronic working environment and a single centralised register. In response to points that were made by colleagues in the Dáil, this amendment aims to make the intent of public access more explicit. I am looking to make clear that my objective is that this Bill should be public and accessible insofar as is possible. Accordingly, amendment No. 2 substitutes subsection (10) to provide that a person will have access to the register in accordance with the access regulations that will be made under section 9(10) of the Bill.
Group 2 refers to amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 16. The objective of these amendments is to improve the clarity of the sections involved with regard to language used and the nature of the penalties applying where offences arise. Section 23 provides for the temporary registration of recreational craft under 24 m in load line length in particular circumstances. Section 24 establishes a requirement for visitor registration of personal water craft, recreational craft 24 m in load line length and greater, small fast-powered craft and small commercial angling boats, for example craft owned by persons that may be visiting the State and operating domestically for short periods of time not exceeding three months when the craft is not registered in another country.
Amendment No. 3 is a technical amendment involving subsections (8) and (9) of section 23. In the case of subsection (8) it reinforces the meaning of the subsection to make it clear that the certificate of registry of temporary registration must be carried on board the ship to which the certificate relates. What we are looking to do is to make clear that if somebody does have a certificate of temporary registration, it should be carried and made available on the vessel to which the temporary registration applies. The wording of subsection (9) is being revised to clarify that where there is a failure to carry the certificate, the owner or master of the ship concerned will be held responsible for the offence and the penalty is a summary conviction for non-compliance is a class C fine, namely, a fine not exceeding €2,500.
Similar to amendment No. 3, amendment No. 4 revises the wording of section 24(6) to clarify that the penalty on summary conviction for non-compliance with subsection (5) is a class C fine, namely, a fine not exceeding €2,500. This penalty level in both sections 23 and 24 is consistent with the provisions on non-compliance with certificate of registry requirements generally as contained in section 28(13) of the Bill which also provides for a class C fine. What we are looking to do there is to bring consistency to the fines that are in place, bringing those ones into the group of a class C fine.
Section 28 provides for the issuing of a certificate of registry by the Minister when a ship is registered on the Irish register of ships. Provision is made for different types of certificate of registry for different registration purposes as well as for duplicate and replacement certificates. Subsection (2) provides for the issuing of a certificate of registry of provisional registration to the owner of a ship that is under construction where provisional registration has been granted under section 18(2).
Amendment No. 5 is a technical amendment to reinforce the meaning of the wording of the subsection to make it clear that it is the owner of the ship in respect of which the certificate of registry has been granted who may apply to the Minister for an extension of the certificate of registry concerned. We are making clear that it is the owner of the vessel who can then apply for an extension of the certificate of registry.
Section 64 provides that except when provided otherwise in the sections of the Bill listed in brackets in this section, a summary conviction for an offence under the Bill will result in a class A fine, which is a fine not exceeding €5,000. The sections listed in brackets in this section provide for fines other than class A fines. They provide for class C or D fines on summary conviction or higher fines on indictment. Amendment No. 16 amends section 64 to add references to sections 20(9), 23(9) and 24(6) to the saver provision. Sections 23(9) and 24(6) provide for a class C fine on summary conviction where the owner or master of a ship fails to comply with the requirement to carry a certificate of registry of temporary or visitor registration, as appropriate, on board the ship at all times. Section 20(9) provides for a fine not exceeding €50,000 on conviction on indictment where a person alters the particulars of a ship or gives an inaccurate statement of the particulars of a ship, such as its measurement, to a third party. This group of amendments seeks to bring clarity and greater coherence to the nature of penalties that may arise if certain offences are committed. It also seeks to clarify where responsibility for having a certificate of temporary registration on board a vessel rests.
The amendments in group 3 - Nos. 6 to 8, inclusive, and No. 17 - bring further clarity to the penalties that will apply where offences arise relating to the certificate of registry on board a ship. Section 28 provides for the issuing of a certificate of registry by the Minister when a ship is registered on the Irish Register of Ships. Amendment No. 6 inserts a specific offence provision, a new subsection (5), where there is a failure to comply with the general requirement in subsection (4)(a) to carry a certificate of registry on board a ship at all times. The amendment clarifies that where this requirement is not complied with, the owner or master of the ship concerned will be held responsible for the offence.
The related technical amendment to the renumbered subsection (7), amendment No. 7, ensures that a specific offence provision for non-compliance with subsections (4)(b) or (4)(c) and the renumbered subsection (6) is contained in the Bill.
Amendment No. 8 is a further consequential technical amendment to the renumbered subsection (13) to include a reference to the new subsection (5) and make it clear that a person who fails to comply with the requirements of the subsections listed in subsection (13) is liable on summary conviction to a class C fine.
Section 65 allows for the prosecution of both the owner and the master of a ship in the case of specified offences under the Bill where it is shown that the owner or master, as the case may be, consented to, approved of or connived in the commission of the offence. Amendment No. 17 arises from the insertion of the new subsection (5) in section 28 and adds a reference to an offence under section 28(5) to the list of offences for the purposes of section 65. The offences in section 28(5) relate to failure by the owner or master of a ship to comply with the general requirement to carry a certificate of registry on board a ship at all times. The inclusion of a reference to section 28(5) in the list of specified offences in section 65 brings consistency to the section, which already includes a reference to sections 23(9) and 24(6), which provide for offences relating to failure by the owner or master of a ship to carry the certificate of temporary registration or of visitor registration, respectively, on board the ship at all times.
The amendments in group 4 - Nos. 9 to 14, inclusive - relate to section 49, which provides that the transfer of a registered ship or a share in such a ship to another qualified person must be by means of a bill of sale, which must be in approved form. The original wording of section 49 did not specifically allow for circumstances in which a bill of sale is not produced during a transfer of a ship, nor did it allow for the acceptance of a description of a ship based on a declaration of measurement, as proposed in the case of registration on certain parts of the register. In the cases of some smaller ships, where the owner may have difficulty in producing a bill of sale, it is proposed to accept a declaration of ownership. This refers to some circumstances in which an actual bill of sale might not be available. It could have been lost, or it might not be available in different circumstances. This amendment proposes that in such circumstances, a declaration of ownership will be accepted in the place of a bill of sale. Amendment No. 9 recognises that there will be exceptions to the requirement to have a bill of sale and allows for the acceptance of alternative documents of transfer, such as a declaration of ownership in some cases. The detail of the documents of transfer will be set out in ministerial regulations. Amendment No. 14 arises as a consequence of the previous amendment and introduces a new subsection (6). To remove any doubt, the new subsection (6) confirms that any reference in section 49 to a bill of sale includes a reference to a document of transfer prescribed under subsection (1).
Section 49(2) establishes that one of the requirements for a bill of sale is that it must contain a description of the ship. This involves consistency with the certificate of measurement relating to the ship. It is proposed to allow for declarations of measurement in the case of some smaller ships that will be registered on certain parts of the register. The specific details and requirements in this regard will be set out in regulations. Amendment No. 11 amends the wording of subsection (2) to recognise that the description of the ship may in certain prescribed circumstances be set out in a declaration of measurement rather than a certificate of measurement. Amendments Nos. 10, 12 and 13 are technical amendments to section 49. Amendment No. 10 amends subsection (2) to clarify that the requirements in relation to a bill of sale or other document of transfer apply equally to such documents in respect of a share in a ship as well as documents in respect of a ship. Amendment No. 12 corrects the placing of the last comma in subsection (2). Amendment No. 13 corrects the wording in the first line of subsection (3) to replace the word "therein" with "in it" and the word "subsection" with the more accurate "subsections".
The Minister said that certain ships - those that are small enough - will be excluded from the requirement to produce a bill of sale. Is there a size limit? I have often been involved in the sale of fishing vessels from 30 ft. to over 100 ft. I have never concluded any sale without the bill of sale being available.
There will be no requirement to produce this documentation in respect of craft below a certain size. We are seeking in this amendment to provide that in circumstances in which this documentation is not available, for whatever reason, other documentation can take its place.
The nature of that documentation could be detailed by future order by the Minister. The purpose of all of this is to put in place a more accurate and comprehensive register that will then ensure the whole body of Irish law in relation to safety and how vessels like this are regulated can be better and more transparently implemented.
Amendment No. 15 is a technical amendment and refers to section 51 which relates to an order for sale on transfer to an unqualified person. Section 51 contains provisions that apply where property in a registered ship or in a share in a ship is transferred on death, bankruptcy or otherwise to a person who is not a qualified person under section 15 of the Bill. It is a textual amendment to improve the wording of section 51(4)(b) by replacing the word “refuse” with the word “refuses”.
As this is the final stage of the Bill, I thank all the Senators for their participation in the debate up to this point. This marks a very important development in the maritime sector as to how we ensure safety, regulate it and ensure growth in our maritime sector.
This was brought home to me at a recent meeting I had with a company that has a significant presence in Ireland and employs a number of Irish people and is looking to employ more people in the maritime sector. It raised with me the need to strengthen the regulation by introducing a register of ships that is more comprehensive, accessible and has different parts within it that relate to different types of vessels that are registered in Ireland. This is what the Bill seeks to do.
A theme that has characterised the debate up to this point, has been the issue of public access. I refer to an amendment I tabled in the Seanad, making my intent clear that the register should be as public as possible and that as many people as possible should have the ability to access it.
I thank everybody for their input. I acknowledge in particular the work of my officials who have put a great deal of effort into the Bill. I believe the Bill will make a difference to what matters, the implementation of Irish maritime law and regulation.