Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Department of Transport
Question 89: To ask the Minister for Transport if he will report on the new guidelines for accessible maritime passenger transport that he published in conjunction with the National Disability Authority; if he will be bringing forward legislation to accompany these new guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12793/10]
The "Guidelines for Accessible Maritime Passenger Transport" were drawn up by my Department in conjunction with the National Disability Authority (NDA), on foot of a recommendation in the Report of the Maritime Passenger Transport Forum, published in November 2008. The Forum was established to oversee implementation of the maritime section of the Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, and is made up of representatives from organisations representing people with disabilities, passenger ship and port services providers, relevant Departments and the NDA.
The Guidelines contain a range of practical advice and information and are designed as a key support to those involved in providing maritime passenger transport services. They cover all aspects of a journey, including advice on providing accessible information for planning the journey, improving access on board vessels, making shore side facilities accessible, disability awareness training for staff and improving communications with passengers.
This is the first time that such guidelines for the maritime sector have been produced in Ireland. Copies are being sent to maritime passenger transport service providers who are being asked to use them to review their services with a view to improving access to their customers.
As the Guidelines have only just been published, it is not my intention at this stage to introduce legislation to accompany them. However, how they are being used by vessel operators will be reviewed in due course and if found necessary consideration will be given to introducing statutory requirements. In this regard, I have taken the opportunity in the Merchant Shipping Bill 2009, to strengthen my powers to introduce measures to facilitate access to passenger vessels to persons with reduced mobility. The Bill recently passed Committee Stage in the Dáil.