Thursday, 9 June 1960
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Barrett: asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he is aware that the serious damage to beaches and to swimming facilities and other holiday amenities experienced recently on the south coast is due to the fact that small oil tankers are not availing of facilities provided by the Irish Refining Company at Whitegate for discharging ballast and are instead discharging ballast containing oil in or in the vicinity of Cork harbour; and whether any steps have been taken or are proposed to be taken to secure either in summary or indictable manner the conviction of the persons responsible for the offensive conduct in question.
Mr. Childers: I am not so aware. I am informed by the Cork Harbour Commissioners that they are satisfied that tankers are making full use of the facilities provided by the Refinery and are not discharging oil into the harbour.
Under the Oil Pollution of the Sea  Act, 1956, the discharge of oil or oily mixtures from a vessel into the territorial seas and the inland waters navigable by seagoing vessels is an offence for which heavy fines may be imposed on the owners and master. Proceedings in respect of oil pollution of harbour waters would normally be taken by the Harbour Authority and if the Deputy has any information about the discharge of oil in Cork Harbour or elsewhere he should report it to my Department, or the Harbour Authorities as appropriate.
Enquiries which I have made suggest that the oil pollution to which the Deputy refers is due to discharges on the high seas. Ireland has accepted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil the provisions of which were implemented here by the Oil Pollution of the Sea Act, 1956. The Convention prohibits discharge of oil or oily mixtures in certain zones including the seas around this country. Unfortunately many countries with substantial tanker fleets have not yet accepted the Convention and we have no means of preventing their ships from discharging oil outside our territorial waters. Success in preventing oil pollution depends on international co-operation and we in this country are playing our part.
Mr. Childers: We have made the necessary inquiries. We have been told, as I have said, that it is not due to any discharges of oil from tankers that otherwise should use the facilities of Whitegate Oil Refinery. I should tell the Deputy that unfortunately we have information that oil can be discharged 300 to 400 miles from the coast and still affect the coast with pollution.
Mr. Childers: There is no need to appoint an inspector. We have sufficient staff to make these inquiries and we are satisfied from the information received from Cork that that is the case. If the Deputy has any further information about the matter which casts doubt on the statement I have made, I shall be very glad to have it from him because we have a certain amount of control at least in regard to oily discharges which take place from tankers which are within our supervision.
Mr. Barrett: Is the Minister aware that the onus is not on the Deputy but is on his Department to inquire into this matter? I am asking the Minister is he ready to appoint an inspector to inquire into this matter?
Mr. Barrett: Could I ask the Minister has he inquired from the Oil Refinery how many small oil tankers have visited the Refinery and how many have got rid of their ballast by using the facilities provided by the Oil Refinery?
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