Sea Pollution (Amendment) Bill, 1998: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 22 June 1999

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 159 No. 18

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  This Bill gives effect in the State to the Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Co-operation Convention, or OPRC, 1990. This convention was designed to ensure that proper arrangements are in place in each member state of the International Maritime Organisation, or the IMO, to deal with emergencies arising from spillages of oil into the sea. It calls for member states to have a major national emergency plan to deal with major spillages, to have a designated response agency and to co-operate with the IMO and adjoining states in planning for and dealing with oil pollution incidents. There is a requirement for all ships carrying oil as cargo and for all installations producing or handling oil products to have emergency pollution plans in place and for anyone becoming aware of a spillage to notify the national agency. The Irish Marine Emergency Service, or IMES, which was set up in 1991 as part of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, has been designated as the Irish national response agency and has made the necessary arrangements to give effect to the convention.

It is necessary, however, to provide a statutory basis for action by the designated response agency in implementing the convention, to enable that agency to direct the preparation of emergency plans by others as a statutory requirement and to make reporting of oil pollution incidents or potential ones mandatory. The Bill fulfils this legislative requirement.

This Bill should not be viewed in isolation but rather as one of many components in the body of measures which has been constructed to protect and enhance the marine environment. It will make the reporting of oil pollution incidents or potential incidents mandatory. Harbour authorities, ships carrying oil as cargo, operators of offshore installations, oil handling and producing facilities and, in certain circumstances, local authorities will have to put in place oil pollution emergency plans. It also extends Ireland's jurisdiction for dealing with pollution incidents from the current 12 mile limit to 200 miles. This is a vital step in the further protection of our marine environment and the valuable maritime and coastal resources which depend on it. This Bill also proposes tough new penalties of up to £10 million for non-compliance.

The Irish Marine Emergency Service, or IMES, will be designated as the national agency which [1294] will have the power to direct the preparation of individual emergency plans by the groups involved. The individual plans will be co-ordinated with an overall national plan which will be prepared by IMES.

Increased co-operation with other coastal states in the event of oil pollution is also provided for. International co-operation and support is a vital part of responding to major marine emergencies all over the world and services from neighbouring countries willingly assist each other where geography and separate administrations are of secondary importance.

The Bill will create a framework for co-operation between the IMES, harbour authorities, local authorities and the operators of oil tankers, offshore installations and oil handling facilities. Our extensive coastline makes us vulnerable to accidents involving oil pollution. The devastating effects that spillages can have on the marine and coastal environment have been made all too clear by incidents such as the Braer and the Sea Empress. The measures in the Bill will provide strong safeguards for our seas and shoreline amenities, and the communities who depend on them, in the event of any such incident.

We all have an interest in protecting and enhancing the marine environment. The high quality of our marine environment is an important element of Ireland's natural endowment, both for its intrinsic value and as a major resource for marine tourism and leisure and the marine food sector. Since becoming Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources in summer 1997, I have accorded a high priority to the protection of the marine environment.

Ireland has consistently argued at EU and international fora for the highest possible international standards in this area. We have a corresponding responsibility to ensure we introduce the appropriate legislation and other measures needed for implementation. Small countries, as well as large ones, have serious obligations in this regard. This Bill complements a number of other measures which have been introduced in recent years or are currently being prepared.

The Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) (Amendment) Act, 1998, enacted in May 1998, strengthens the law in relation to oil pollution by bringing it into line with current international conventions and increases the level of compensation in the event of an oil spill to a maximum of £195 million.

In 1997, four sets of regulations were made under the Sea Pollution Act, 1991, to give effect to provisions of the IMO Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as the MARPOL Convention. Work is under way to adopt further provisions of MARPOL concerning the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships and the prevention of air pollution from ships.

In March 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic, the OSPAR Convention, came into force internationally following ratification by all [1295] the contracting parties. In July 1998 I led the Irish delegation to the first ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Commission in Portugal. The ministerial meeting adopted a new annex to the convention dealing with biodiversity, a series of strategies and an action plan for the OSPAR Commission. It also adopted a decision governing the disposal of disused offshore installations.

An assessment is currently in the process of being undertaken of the marine environmental conditions within the area covered by the OSPAR Convention in the year 2000 – the QSR, or Quality Status Report, 2000. For this purpose the OSPAR area has been divided into five regions. Ireland and the UK are responsible in respect of preparing the assessment for an area known as the Celtic seas region.

In the first instance Ireland prepared its own QSR which was published recently by the Marine Institute. That report concludes that Ireland's marine environment is in a healthy state, but that there is no room for complacency and that certain areas require continued attention. The second stage involves a joint UK-Ireland QSR for the Celtic seas region. This is at an advanced stage. The final stage of the process will involve the fusion of all five regional reports into a single QSR for the entire area.

My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and in consultation with industry representatives, has continued to develop a strategy for the environmental regulation of offshore oil and gas activities. This will take account of the strategy with regard to the offshore industry, which is currently being prepared under the auspices of the OSPAR Convention.

In 1997, in the wake of revelations by the UK Government that radioactive waste had been dumped at a number of locations around the coast of the UK during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, I established a task force on the dumping of radioactive materials in our general maritime area. I expect the task force report to be made available to me in the very near future and I will arrange for it to be published as soon as possible.

Between 3 and 8 June 1998 28 phosphorus devices were washed up along the east coast. A further device was washed ashore on 19 July 1998. These devices apparently originated in the Beaufort Dyke dump site, which lies between the coasts of Scotland and Northern Ireland. My Department immediately contacted the UK authorities to express the Government's serious concern at these developments, and subsequently met senior officials from a range of UK Government Departments and agencies to discuss the problem.

In addition, I raised the issue at the ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Commission, and OSPAR subsequently agreed to examine the issue of dumped munitions in the waters around Europe and asked Ireland, as lead country, to prepare a paper on the problems posed by dumped munitions. The matter is being discussed [1296] at a meeting of the OSPAR Commission this week.

Senators will be aware that 1998 was designated International Year of the Ocean by the United Nations. To mark the occasion I signed the Ocean Charter, which was sponsored by the International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. In December I also opened the Oceans Conference at Dublin Castle, which was hosted by the Marine Institute. In addition, my Department was represented at the second London oceans workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to mark the International Year of the Ocean and also to prepare for the 7th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, CSD 7, which was held in New York in April of this year. Oceans and seas was the major sectoral theme at CSD 7, at which I was pleased to represent Ireland.

The shoreline protection strategy was recently completed by IMES. It is intended to commence testing this plan during the coming months. Local authorities and harbours have been requested to compile contingency plans and are finding the strategy extremely useful in assisting them in this regard.

The IMO assembly in November 1997, which I had the opportunity to address, agreed that the INF code which governs the transport of irradiated nuclear fuels by sea should be made mandatory for the future. Work on implementing that decision is proceeding apace. In the meantime the European Union has adopted a directive requiring all vessels carrying such materials bound for or leaving a Community port to comply with strict notification procedures and controls. I signed the regulations transposing the directive in question into Irish law on 21 April 1999 as required under the terms of the directive, even though such vessels do not use Irish ports or transit Irish waters. The EU controls in question now apply to all vessels en route to Sellafield. The Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, continues to serve on the ministerial committee on Sellafield and on radiological protection generally, under the chairmanship of the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob.

These are the circumstances in which this Bill is being introduced. As has been indicated in the QSR, we have a valuable resource in good condition, due to a combination of nature's bounty and measures introduced by Government. We need, however, to continue to care for this resource. With continued good care it can be enjoyed by all our people. I look forward to hearing Senators' contributions on the matter and I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. Caffrey: Information on Ernie Caffrey  Zoom on Ernie Caffrey  The primary purpose of this Bill is to increase the Government's regulatory control of pollution at sea. As an island nation with major fishing and tourism industries and which is largely dependent on sea transport, we have an important relationship with the sea. It is essential that we have the ability to ensure our seas are [1297] protected from pollution. If this Bill can ensure such protection, I welcome it in principle.

The Bill provides important safeguards, but unless the necessary resources are made available by the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources they will amount to nothing. It is accepted generally that the Department does not receive sufficient resources. If the provisions of the Bill are to be effective, funding to the Department must be increased.

The Bill extends our maritime area to 200 miles from our coastal baseline so that the Irish sea area will be ten times the size of our land mass. The Irish maritime area is gradually being extended by national and EU legislation but we have failed to provide the resources to ensure the maximum surveillance of this area.

One of my pet subjects in relation to all areas of law is enforcement and this will be extremely difficult to implement unless we provide adequate funding. There is a plethora of laws in all Departments – such as those relating to speed limits on our roads, etc. – but very little enforcement of them. Too many people are getting away with flouting the law in every area. The Minister needs to look at this and provide additional resources to the Naval Service and the Air Corps if enforcement of these laws is to be taken seriously.

I am concerned about the role of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources in offshore oil exploration. The main source of oil pollution to date has been in the area of sea transport. We have been able to deal adequately with it so far but some serious incidents in recent years gave cause for concern. Coming from the west, I have a particular interest in oil and gas exploration off the west coast of Achill. The Minister should take note of our concerns in relation to the potential for such exploration which will be huge in economic terms. It will, I hope, when final assessment of the drilling takes place next year, result in a major economic boom for the west coast. There is always a price for progress and in this instance, it is the risk of pollution. We have to be ever vigilant about paying this price.

The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources is responsible for policing and promoting the development of offshore exploration. These functions do not converge easily. It might be better to have two separate Departments dealing with these issues which are becoming so complex.

Another hobby horse of mine is the need for a deep sea port on the west coast to facilitate the increasing volume of commercial activity there. With the advent of Objective One status and the increasing economic boom in the area with new factories and an increase in the volume of production, it is imperative that we do not transport this business right across the country through the already clogged streets of Dublin. We could develop such a facility which would cater for the shipping requirements of the entire north-west [1298] area. However, that is an aside to what we are discussing today. I am sure the Minister is conscious of the developments in this area but I take this opportunity to mention them.

A number of ports along the west coast are not economically viable at present. Small ports like Ballina, Westport, Ballyglass and Killala are relics of the past. They belong to an era when coastal shipping was viable and all our products were imported or exported by coasters, thousand tonners which were very valuable to the economic infrastructure of the area. In many towns like Ballina and Westport the entire commercial activity revolved around the shipping facility in the local port. We must now look to the future when we will be dealing with super tankers and superloads coming into these ports.

I note there is an anomaly in section 3(1) which states:

Each harbour authority shall, in relation to the harbour concerned, have in place an oil pollution emergency plan.

About six months ago a small coaster came into the port of Ballina with 1,000 tonnes of coal, travelling along the estuary which is ten miles long. Had that vessel run out of toilet paper half way up the estuary the local harbour board would not have been able to replace it due to lack of money. Ballina is a typical example of the financial position facing some of the small port and harbour authorities throughout the country. Harbour authorities in such ports are virtually defunct. They have no operating capacity or finance and exist only on paper. It is time for the Minister to examine this issue. Some harbour authorities have valuable property lying idle. In some cases such property has been converted into viable business enterprises, but other such properties lie derelict. Their potential development should be examined seriously.

Local authorities who have responsibility for harbours do not have funds to implement any pollution control management strategies. The Minister must provide funding for local authorities if the ideals and aspirations of the Bill are to be realised.

The environmental impact of oil spillages can be exaggerated. Some scientists maintain that, given plenty of time, the environment can recover. The immediate polluting effects of oil spillages are unsightly and sometimes have a dramatic impact on the local environment. Nevertheless, the problem is not insoluble. Modern technology and scientific expertise allow us to breed micro-organisms that can deal with oil pollution. We cannot breed micro-organisms, however, that will deal with radioactive water – neither man nor micro-organisms can deal with that. I am concerned about this issue as is the Minister who, in 1997, appointed a task force to investigate the dumping of radioactive material. This was done in the wake of revelations by the British Government that radioactive waste had been dumped at a number of locations around the UK coastline [1299] in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Although it was appointed in 1997, the task force has not yet produced its report. The Minister said the report is imminent, but two years have elapsed and we are still blissfully unaware of the potential hazards of that waste.

The radioactive material that was dumped into the Irish Sea during that period, is as lethal today as it was when first dumped there in the 1950s and it will be as lethal in 100 years time. Therein lies a major problem. Given that this matter needs to be seriously looked at, we need the report urgently. When we look around we see our friends dying of cancer. In my own town of Ballina, which has a population of 10,000, no fewer than ten or 11 people in their early fifties and sixties died in the past month alone from cancer. That indicates something unnatural is happening and science has not yet pinpointed it. We have to look at the possibility of radioactivity. This is a serious issue. We have the mechanism and the capacity to deal with pollution in our seas and oil spillages, etc., but we do not have the capacity to deal with radioactive waste. Perhaps the report, which we are anxiously awaiting, will throw some light on what is happening.

The Bill, which is primarily focused on dealing with and controlling the problem of pollution, has many valuable aspects. I certainly welcome it. The Minister who has a long association with the maritime industry is extremely conscious of the need to bring this Bill into the 20th century and to deal with the many issues that should have been dealt with many years ago.

In the context of Mayo especially, I would like to reinforce the idea of funding for the small ports along the west coast. The Minister has a responsibility either to write off the harbours that are not operating or the harbour authorities that exist on paper only and which cause problems in relation to small time shipping coming into local ports. They do not have the money or the capacity to deal with any kind of shipping operation. If some foul-up occurred on these coasters, etc., I do not know whether the blame would lie at the doorstep of the local harbour authority, the Minister or the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. It is an area that needs to be sorted out but the Bill does not address it fully. I would like to see a provision covering that particular aspect.

I have covered most of the issues I intended to raise. This is a technical Bill in many respects but its technical aspects are overshadowed by many practical needs of the maritime industry.

Mr. Bonner: Information on Enda Bonner  Zoom on Enda Bonner  Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Woods anseo inniu chun an Bille um Thruailliú na Farraige (Leasú), 1998, a léamh don dara h-uair.

Before dealing with the Bill and in welcoming the Minister to the House I refer to his continued efforts on behalf of the Irish fishing industry. The enactment of this Bill is a vital step in the future [1300] protection of our maritime environment and the valuable maritime and coastal resources which depend on it. Protecting our waters against pollution, and particularly oil pollution, is very important but our fishing industry is under a greater threat from the selective operation of the Common Fisheries Policy. I thank the Minister for his efforts in recent months on behalf of the industry on the European Commission proposals in respect of the blue whiting quota. His intervention in April with Commissioner Bonino ensured that all member states cease fishing this species in line with the mandatory obligation under EU law. Some member states had blatantly ignored the directive to cease fishing while our fishermen, as usual, obeyed the rules. Last month when the outgoing caretaker Commission tried to rush through discriminatory and flawed proposals, which were inequitable and unfair to Irish fishermen and particularly for those in my constituency of Donegal South-West, he strenuously opposed the measures on the basis that they did not reflect the fishing patterns in recent years of the importance of the fishery to our industry.

I appreciate that the Minister and the Taoiseach ensured that the German Presidency saw the compelling nature of our case and pointed out that a vital natural interest was at stake. An additional 17,000 tonnes was added to the total allowable catch of which Ireland was granted 10,000 to increase our allocation to 24,000 tonnes or 16 per cent of the total quota as against the original proposal of 10.78 per cent. While the Minister has secured a 50 per cent increase in Ireland's allocation for the future, this industry has been restricted in its development by European bureaucrats. I ask the Minister to fight tooth and nail for the industry and particularly for those enterprising trawler owners who have developed the Irish fleet, despite the restrictions imposed on them by the CFP. A complete renegotiation of the CFP is needed to protect the many jobs in Donegal South-West which is relying today on a vibrant fishing industry.

I welcome this Bill to give effect to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990, which was adopted by the IMO, a subsidiary organisation of the United Nations. This convention is designed to ensure proper arrangements are in place in each member state of the IMO to deal with emergencies arising from oil spillage into the sea. It calls for member states to have a national emergency plan to deal with major spillages and a designate response agency and to co-operate with the IMO and adjoining states in planning and dealing with oil pollution incidents. This legislation and the Oil Pollution of the Sea (Civil Liability and Compensation) (Amendment) Act, 1998, enacted in May 1998, are important. That Act trebled compensation for fishermen, fish farmers, tourism interests, local authorities and other affected parties for damage caused by oil pollution. It provided for compensation under [1301] tough new rules up to £195 million. This compensation will be paid for spillages.

Our 7,800 kilometres of coastline and our unique geographical position at the hub of the transatlantic shipping routes makes us particularly vulnerable to accidents involving ships transporting oil in the seas around our coast. Our waters and shoreline must be protected from the catastrophic effects of oil pollution and from major spillages on the scale of the Braer and the Sea Empress, to which the Minister referred. The Bill before the House and the Bill enacted in May 1998 are important in terms of protecting our fishing industry and potential losses for those who derive their livelihood from the sea.

Ireland is endowed with a long coastline and a largely healthy and unpolluted marine and coastal environment. Our marine coast alone is a valuable resource in its own right and is an important location for a range of economic activities and recreational uses. Over 90 per cent of our territory is under water. In the past two years we have had to implement stringent European directives in relation to special areas of conservation on dry land. We must ensure the same conservation of our marine environment and protect our fishing grounds, our natural and clean beaches, our aquaculture farming of salmon, oysters, mussels, our maraculture farming of crabs, crayfish and lobsters and the wildbird habitats along our coastline.

The high quality of our marine environment is an important element of Ireland's natural endowment. Protection of this environment must be a key element of our overall marine policy. The Minister's Department wishes to preserve and protect the quality of our marine environment by protecting the overall marine ecosystem, maintaining the high standards and quality of our main waters by preventing pollution at sea and providing a rapid response to pollution incidents in order to minimise damage. The way to do this is to enact the legislation before the House.

Our extensive coastline makes it especially vulnerable to accidents involving ships transporting oil in the territorial waters. Our waters and shoreline must be protected from the devastating effects of oil pollution. We must continue to be vigilant and we are all agreed on the need for this Bill. When we consider that 31 million gallons of oil are transported by sea every day, it is right to introduce legislation to protect our natural resources.

The Bill extends the territorial area of the State, for the purposes of the legislation, from the current 12 mile limit to a 200 mile limit. This is a vital step in the protection of our marine environment and the valuable maritime and coastal resources which depend on it. The Bill also provides tough new penalties of up to £10 million for non-compliance.

Pollution prevention and surveillance must be our top priority. As a nation we are still under-resourced in this regard and we must seek additional funds under the present round of EU [1302] funding. The Bill will create a framework of co-operation between IMES, harbour authorities and the operators of oil tankers, offshore installations and oil handling facilities.

Our extended coastline makes us vulnerable to accidents involving oil pollution. The measures contained in the Bill will provide strong safeguards for our seas and shoreline amenities and the communities that depend on them in the event of such incidents arising.

Sections 10 and 11 provide for increased co-operation with other coastal states, especially our near neighbours, in the event of oil pollution accidents. Due to the nature of the sea having no barriers to prevent the spread of oil pollution, international co-operation and support is vital in responding to major maritime emergencies. While we are a small country, we have a vast coastline with a major part of our territorial area under water.

We are proud of the high quality of our marine environment. The Bill introduces the necessary legislation to protect that environment and to conform with the highest international standards in that regard. It also complements other legislation which has been introduced recently or is currently under preparation. With increased activity off the west and north-west coast in the search for oil and gas, it is important to continue to develop a strategy for the environmental regulation of offshore oil and gas activities. We are more aware of the dangers today than in the past, when our waters were used for all kinds of dumping. In this context, the Minister referred to the Beaufort Dyke.

Work is under way to prevent marine pollution by sewage and air pollution from ships. I am very concerned about the effect domestic raw sewage and waste water are having on many bays and inland waterways. While this legislation is primarily concerned with dealing with the effects of oil pollution from oil spillages, the lack of legislation and, perhaps, consultation between the Minister's Department and the Department of the Environment and Local Government is causing serious problems in many areas because of the lack of sewage treatment plants. The EU expects us to provide these facilities on a scaled basis, but the Department of the Environment and Local Government says it cannot fund many of the schemes proposed as priorities by local authorities.

The provision for primary and secondary sewage treatment plants can make an enormous difference to many areas. While a large number of beaches in County Donegal qualify for blue flag status, many more have been unable to attain it because of the lack of purity of the sea water County Donegal is also losing out with regard to the development of aquaculture. Sea operators in Dungloe Bay, where I come from, have been refused licences due to the quality of the water. The bay has been reclassified from a grade B to a grade C bay due to the water quality. This has arisen because the town only has a primary treat[1303] ment plant and the waste water is going into the bay.

The same situation applies in Gortahork, another village in County Donegal. The treatment plant is located beside a national school. The children are unable to use the local beach for swimming because of the continuous rejection by the Department of the Environment and Local Government of applications for funding by Donegal County Council. When I visited Kincaslough, the home of Daniel O'Donnell, during my local government election canvass I was told that visitors to the area are unable to use the local beach as raw sewage can be seen in the water. It comes from the village sewerage scheme and from an unauthorised caravan development on nearby Cruit Island. We need a programme to ensure that every village or town with a beach or bay has a proper sewage treatment plant.

I am also concerned that many local authorities do not have financial resources to provide proper harbours and ports, an important element of what is intended to be provided for by this legislation. Substantial investment is needed in many harbours and ports if catastrophic shipping accidents are to be avoided. I appreciate the provision of funding last year by the Minster for the dredging of Burtonport harbour. Unfortunately, the work is at a standstill due to the intervention of the EPA.

If a substantial amount of oil or gas is found off the west coast we do not have the proper infrastructure to deal with it. There are positive signs of a substantial gas find off the County Mayo coast. Problems have already arisen between Enterprise Oil and the unions with regard to the provision of labour. The company is using Ayr in Scotland as its port base instead of Killybegs, which is its preferred option, because of the lack of facilities. Fortunately, the helicopter service at Donegal Airport is being used by the company, giving the airport a much needed boost.

I thank the Minister for the support he has already given to Killybegs. Following the enactment of this year's Finance Bill the Minister provided funding of approximately £7.5 million for Killybegs harbour and the other four or five major harbours in the country. Much more is needed. I also thank the Minster of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands for the funding he has provided to many small harbours and ports in Gaeltacht areas off the west coast. Many of these small harbours, piers and slipways were starting to fall into the sea, but due to his intervention much good work has been carried out in the past year.

The measures contained in the Bill are laudable. However, a financial commitment is also needed to enable local authorities to provide the necessary facilities. When the Bill was before the other House there was all-party co-operation in having it passed. With the agreement of the other [1304] side of the House perhaps all Stages could be taken today. I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  With regard to the suggestion that all Stages be taken today, I wish to co-operate in the speedy passage of the Bill. I have some queries, reservations and possible amendments. I understood the Bill would not pass all Stages today. However, I do not wish to be difficult and I will consider what the Minister has to say in reply.

I welcome this legislation. It gives effect within the State domestically to the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention, 1990. It appears to be concerned principally with oil pollution, which is a major source of pollution. However, there are other dangerous forms of pollution to which reference has been made in this debate, most notably from nuclear waste of various kinds.

In addition, the discharging of ballast water by ships in harbour has not been referred to. It is especially dangerous in harbours, but also along the coastline, because while water taken in as ballast for a ship in a foreign port may be pure as water, it may contain marine organisms which may result in new marine organisms being introduced to our coastal waters that may have a disturbing effect on the ecological balance. Perhaps the Minister will be able to respond to that issue.

The Bill provides a statutory basis for action by the designated response agency in implementing the 1990 convention. It enables the agency to direct the preparation of emergency plans by others as a statutory requirement. That is good because it suggests there is a degree of foresight and forethought.

Earthwatch provided me with briefing material, including reference to section 25 of the principal Act. I have not had time to consult the principal Act, but perhaps the Minster and his advisers will be able to clarify the matter. With regard to the insertion of paragraph (aa) in section 25(1) of the principal Act, provided for in section 5, is the sampling to occur on a pre-emptive or post facto basis? A reasonable point is made that continuous monitoring is necessary as a cornerstone of sea water health assessment. It is not enough just to take samples after a disaster. We should establish what the ground measure is through continuous monitoring and we would then be able to work from that.

I very much welcome the penalties of up to £10 million. However, large international corporations, such as petroleum companies, have behaved traditionally in a most cavalier manner with regard to the environment, human rights and everything else, particularly Shell with its disgraceful behaviour in some African countries – it does not get away with it so easily around the coastlines of European countries. It has absolutely no conscience in terms of the pollution or human rights impact of what it does on African countries. In addition to the fines, these companies should be made responsible for the cost of the [1305] cleaning up operation. Why should the State have to pay for it?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  There is a provision for £195 million for such operations in the Bill.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I love the sound of that; that is splendid. I am sorry I did not notice that, but the Minister has certainly removed that hesitation from my mind. It is very important and I congratulate him. It is excellent and I do not see why taxpayers in Ireland and other countries should be forced to clean up the mess created by these large and wealthy companies as they had to previously. That is good and useful news.

The Minister referred to the armaments and munitions of various kinds that were washed up from dumps, such as those in the Beaufort Dyke. A total of 28 phosphorous devices were washed up on our beaches. This is terribly worrying because they can cause serious injury, especially to children or even inquisitive adults. I am glad the Minister is taking note of this problem.

Of course, as an island with a spectacular number of inlets, Ireland has proportionately a very large area of coastline in comparison to other European countries. That coastline is exposed to increasing risk all the time for a variety of reasons. There has been a certain level of climate change. All of us have noticed the increased severity of Atlantic storms over the past number of years and that has meant that shipping is more vulnerable.

If the highly competitive nature of industries, such as the oil industry, is added in, there is an increased likelihood of accidents at sea leading to spillages of noxious cargoes, particularly, oil. There is continuing pressure on shipping operators to maximise cargo capacity and reduce turnaround time and this, in turn, has led to what could be seen as potentially unsafe, hazardous ship design both in bulk carriers and roll-on roll-off ferries. Ireland is on the doorstep of the major Atlantic shipping routes and is at peril. Under the Bill the reporting of oil pollution incidents or potential incidents becomes mandatory and emergency plans must be put in place by harbour authorities, etc. I am probably taking up something referred to by Senators Bonner and Caffrey: how practical is this in light of our knowledge of the level of preparedness that exists?

I thank God for the Internet, which my secretary is very efficient at surfing because she has managed to access interesting articles at short notice even though I did not think I would get a brief on the Bill. There was criticism of the press on the Order of Business, most of which was, gladly, focused on the noxious operation of Rupert Murdoch and the penetration of his vile empire into this republic.

The Irish Times has served the country very well in various areas, particularly in its reportage on the environment. An article in the paper last year stated that “Only six Irish coastal harbours are equipped to handle oil and solid water under [1306] new port waste management, a pilot survey by Coastwatch Ireland has found.” It is interesting that these locations are not industrial ports but marinas. The pressure from the pleasure industry is far more powerful that that from the domestic fishing industry, which is a pity.

The model locations are Castle Pier marina, Kinsale, County Cork; Kinsale Yacht Club marina; East Ferry marina, Cobh, County Cork; Coleraine marina, Portrush, County Antrim and Dundalk, County Louth. Well done, Cork, particularly Kinsale.

Regrettably, there is not a list of shame. A total of 75 ports and harbours were studied and one can draw one's own conclusions. It is obvious that approximately 70 of them did not meet the required standards and one assumes, although they are not named, that major ports, such as Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Sligo, are included. That indicates that there is a difficulty and we may not be in the state of preparedness that we would like.

The Bill will allow the ratification of international conventions and that is to be welcomed. In addition there are hazards to humans. The E.coli infestation of the water supply at St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, was raised on the Order of Business – this hospital obviously is land based. There are problems, such as E-coli infestation, in Dublin Bay from time to time. For example, I often go for a walk along the Great South Wall and when I was a child a great deal of swimming took place at the Half Moon. However, an official notice has been erected warning people not to swim there because the water does not meet EU regulations. The reason for this is the sewage outfall works at the Pigeon House plant.

I have always thought that astonishing short sightedness led to the siting of a major generating plant beside a major sewage plant yet, as happens in all Scandinavian countries, we do not reclaim the solids, burn them in the generating station and create electricity, thus doing something positive. I am not Dr. Doolittle; I do not converse with the animals nor, indeed, the fish, but I assure the Minister that, as a matter of intuition, fish do not relish hundreds of thousands of tonnes of human sewage being dumped into their environment in Dublin Bay.

I wish something was done about that. It is a risk to humans and the pollutants are also a risk to the ecological balance of the seas. We have been warned that the sight of dolphins, a favourite marine species, may well disappear unless we act strongly to restrict the pollution of the sea. Ms Sian Pullen, head of the marine unit of the Word Wildlife Fund for Nature stated in an article in The Irish Times on 14 September 1998 that:

Some of the most exotic sea creatures around Irish and British coasts, and some hundreds of species in total, are threatened by large-scale dumping of industrial chemicals, heavy metals and oil pollution. [The dangers are made quite clear.] The place of dolphins and orcas – also known as killer whales – at [1307] the top of that food chain is at risk because toxic chemicals accumulate in their body fat and this takes its toll on their immunity and ability to breed. WWF proposed special protection areas – four of which are close to Ireland. They include the Celtic Sea; the Rockall Bank (for its coral, anemones, and blue whiting), the Irish Sea (because of the threat to basking sharks, crustaceans, polychaete worms, razorbills and guillemots), and Cardigan Bay Sarns near the Welsh coast. Among the rarer species which still survive around the Irish coast are the sea gooseberry, a small jelly fish that lassoes its prey; Blood Henry, [I presume this is not an indelicate response to my colleague who usually sits beside me] a voracious predator starfish which devours oysters [perhaps it is a reference to Senator Henry after all] and the sea mouse, an incandescent gold green worm.

The article continues that although deliberate dumping has been banned, European seas are still largely used as rubbish dumps. This arises chiefly from oil and gas extraction or from the passage of shipping.

Regarding the Bill, is it envisaged that the sampling of the water will take place on a continuous basis? Obviously, this would be preferable from a scientific point of view. The Minister indicated that the issue of the fines is covered and I congratulate him in that regard. I also raised the issue of ballast water and that it often carries marine life which may be alien. When it is discharged, although the water could be described in scientific and chemical terms as pure, the presence of marine life forms in it could disturb the ecological balance. Has this aspect been addressed?

What is the position regarding the line of reportage in the event of certain or suspected pollution being discovered outside harbour areas? I read the Bill at speed and I may not be accurate, but it appears that section 12 is substantially weaker than the provisions which deal with pollution inside harbours. There may be reasons for this, but it is a source of worry.

Another issue is the definition of nuclear waste cargo on ships which stop principally, if not exclusively, in the harbours of the east coast. Is this covered adequately in the Bill? Section 7 states that pollutant means oil, an oily mixture, noxious liquid substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage. Noxious liquid substance or harmful substance are catch all phrases and they could be interpreted to include nuclear waste. However, I am concerned that there is not a clear or specific definition in the section which includes nuclear waste.

People are worried about this matter and successive Governments have been concerned about Sellafield. Given that some ships are propelled by nuclear power and others carry nuclear waste, people are rightly concerned about the discharge of radioactive material into our seas, in harbours or coastal waters. I am concerned that nuclear [1308] waste is not specifically mentioned in the Bill. There may be such a reference and I overlooked it because I read the Bill rapidly. If there is not such a reference, I would like one included.

Ms Cox: Information on Margaret Cox  Zoom on Margaret Cox  I am delighted to welcome the Minister. The marine environment is one of Ireland's greatest assets and the protection of our seas and the seashore is a most important issue. As an island nation, Ireland depends on the sea and the seashore for tourism and fisheries. It is part of our important national heritage. I am delighted the Bill will strengthen and provide more protection in this area.

Pollution is a serious issue. However, it is not only a national issue but one for local authorities and individuals. It is also an international issue because many people travel across the sea, carrying various cargoes which may impact on a small nation such as Ireland. It is, therefore, vital to ensure that the best possible protection is available. Much of the pollution in Ireland starts on the east coast of the United States and can even travel from the Gulf of Mexico. I welcome the extension of the line around Ireland from 12 to 200 miles. This is vital in the continuing fight for the protection of our environment.

I also welcome the increased penalties, particularly those up to £10 million for non-compliance. This shows how seriously we take this matter and that there is a commitment to ensure that people work with us in reducing all possible risks. If they do not do so, they will face the consequences. As the Minister outlined, up to £195 million is available in terms of compensation if, following an accident, an oil spill affects our coastline. I also welcome the framework which has been put in place for increased co-operation between various nations if there is pollution. This is important because an oil spillage often transcends borders. As the Minister said, the co-operation of many governments and authorities is needed in dealing with such issues.

The big ships and carriers which pass close to Ireland make the country vulnerable. The extensive nature of our coastline also makes us vulnerable. This is one of the reasons it is essential that the safeguards provided in the Bill are put in place to protect our seas and shoreline. However, we must also be careful in terms of pollution by people who sail. This probably does not involve dedicated sailors because they feel a commitment to the sea, but others who do not spend as much time at sea. It also involves people who go to beaches and do not take home their litter or dispose of it in the bins provided. They must recognise that they also have a responsibility in this area.

If one travelled along the west coast from Galway to Mayo and Donegal, where there are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and looked at the high tide mark, one would see the cans, dirt and rubbish in plastic bags which are washed up daily. It would make people ashamed. It would make them realise that not only large [1309] carriers and oil tankers cause pollution but smaller items. If this was cleaned up, many of our problems in this area would be solved.

I welcome the framework for co-operation with local authorities. Perhaps the Minister could consider ringfencing a fund for local authorities to allow them to address this area. For example, County Galway has a huge coastline which needs to be protected from pollution and coastal erosion. This is a huge problem for coastal counties such as Cork, Kerry, etc. They have major difficulty trying to keep a watchful eye on the coastline and preventing pollution and coastal erosion.

On a Bill such as this there is no point reiterating what others have said. I take the opportunity of the Minister's presence to note the wonderful gas find off counties Galway and Mayo. The proper development of this find is vital in re-energising the west and when bringing the gas ashore we should not think solely in terms of piping it directly to Dublin. A gas grid should be provided in the west to serve counties Mayo, Sligo and Galway because a pipeline to Dublin would be of no benefit to the west. This appears to be an impressive find which may replace the Kinsale gas field, serving the total needs of the domestic market and even allowing for exports. It opens up possibilities such as replacing smaller power stations, providing employment and making low cost fuel available to people in the west who traditionally did not have access to it. I ask the Minister to take those points on board.

I commend the Minister for bringing the Bill to the House and for the work he has done in the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. He is well acquainted with his brief and is making a major contribution to the country and to the protection of marine life and the marine industry. I commend the Bill to the House and am delighted to give it my full support.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  I welcome the Minister and acknowledge the great work he has done for the fishing community and those who use our seas for business and pleasure. During his time in the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources he has looked after his portfolio in a dedicated manner.

I fully support the Sea Pollution Bill and concur with the remarks made on all sides. It is past time that a plan was put in place for accidents and emergencies. As Senator Norris said, only seven ports or marinas have put in place facilities of the required standard.

The Bill covers pollution within the 200 mile limit but, as Senator Cox remarked, we are responsible for much of the litter on our beaches. One can see this most clearly from a boat, looking back to shore at how people continually dump rubbish at the most scenic places. At Slea Head in my county, people throw refuse along the road side; one cannot see this from the land but it is visible from the sea. Eventually this rubbish ends up on our beaches. It is no good saying it is not [1310] there – milk bottles and cartons, cans and all sorts of rubbish are washed up on our shores.

Senator Norris mentioned the programme which showed ballast water being pumped out on our shores or being taken from our waters to other countries, and the various species of small slugs and snails which are taken with this water. I had not heard this before. We should acknowledge the major contribution which RTE and, in particular, Mr. Tom McSweeney has made in informing people about the sea. His programme is good and it covers all aspects of the subject.

Nuclear waste was mentioned also. I was proud that an amendment of mine to the Harbours Act, 1996, to ban nuclear material and waste from named harbours, was accepted by the then Minister of State, Deputy Gilmore. That was a step in the right direction. I have since suggested that our 12 mile zone should be nuclear free and I do not see why this cannot be done, although it would require another Bill. No one in Ireland would oppose such a move. This would be a major step, even if it is only a gesture. It would show the rest of Europe and the world that it is time to call a halt to the waste entering our seas from nuclear power stations, some of which are not far away.

Another pollution problem concerns the sewage treatment plants in many of our harbours, which do not take into account and could not cater for the fish processing industries. It came as a shock to fish processors that the plants could not treat their sewage, especially as these plants cost between £3 million and £8 million. The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment and Local Government will have to discuss and sort out this problem.

Sewage treatment plants are fine but they create surplus water. We already have a lot of rain and the plants cause much pollution in harbours, especially land-locked harbours, so to speak, where the pollution ends up on the shore. This is embarrassing. In our town we have done our best to clean it up but more pollution comes every day, because it is a land-locked harbour and the prevailing wind blows the pollution to the same place.

I welcome section 12. Many big vessels, such as oil tankers and fish factory boats, go into sheltered coves around our coast rather than to our harbours. Ventry harbour is extremely beautiful and it should be taken over by the Department, not in the way that the Department takes over a fishery harbour centre but to give responsibility to the Dingle harbour master or harbour board to monitor and collect revenue from boats going in. Up to 40 vessels, mostly fish factory boats, go into Ventry harbour in bad weather. The offal from these boats is being dumped into the sea. That should be prevented.

I do not know how the Minister proposes to place restrictions on boats that anchor outside the harbour; they anchor at night but are gone in the morning. I know there is an onus on them to comply with this legislation but the Minister and the [1311] Department should ensure that harbours which do not come under the responsibility of a harbour board do so. Revenue could be collected which would help a number of boards which are experiencing difficulties making ends meet.

Section 2 refers to the preparation of an emergency plan in all harbours. That will be welcome throughout the country. I know a national plan will be put in place but the time has come for each harbour authority to be prepared for any accident that may occur.

The thrust of the Bill is going in the right direction. Senator Norris seems quite happy with it and, with the consent of the House, we could progress to the other Stages. I support the Bill.

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I thank Senators for their contributions. This is a useful Bill and is a practical step forward. The Bill will have enormous implications which will be valuable. As Senators pointed out, extending our limits to 200 miles gives us enormous control over that area. I will return to that matter in respect of individual comments made by Senators.

There are substantial penalties in the legislation. There is a penalty for non-compliance of up to £10 million and a penalty for damage caused and compensation of up to £195 million.

Senators Norris and Caffrey made the point that the Bill is about being prepared. It is about preparedness and, consequently, it gives our marine emergency service the power to insist that these plans are operated.

Senator Caffrey welcomed the Bill and said it is crucial to avoid pollution or the kind of mismanagement that is involved, but he rightly pointed out that the resources are not currently available. Once these plans are agreed in legislation, we have to follow through with the resources and that is being done through the Irish Marine Emergency Service. The IMES is preparing plans at different points around the country to deal with oil spillages. In the process of two vessels being vandalised in Howth harbour – one was lost and the other suffered substantial damage – oil leaked into the harbour. This is a very scenic area but within a short time of this happening, the IMES had the oil spill completely contained. It did the job well with the use of equipment; the IMES has equipment stored in strategic areas throughout the country. That is to clarify that the process is moving ahead.

Nevertheless, I accept Senator Caffrey's point about the need for much more equipment as well as greater preparedness because there is little point in crying after the event, nor is there any point in having the money to clean up afterwards. It is important that the money is available but it would be far better if these events did not take place or that they were contained as soon as possible. That is the type of circumstance for which we are preparing and more resources will be needed in this area in particular.

[1312] The purchase of a tug for the west is being considered. Currently we have to hire tugs if they are required. We should have at least one available to move in if a vessel is in difficulties. Fortunately, a number of these vessels which were listing badly or in danger of sinking were rescued and brought into a safe port. Those are the type of emergencies we have experienced, and there have been a number in the past year off the west coast. We have to be able to help vessels get into the ports but to do that we have to go to Scotland or elsewhere to get a tug. We need to be able to respond quickly to emergencies using our own resources, and preparations are being made for the purchase of one of these tugs.

There is another important element which relates to points raised by Senator Norris. Senator Norris expressed concern about a number of issues, one of which was the question of surveillance and whether the monitoring would be continuous. The purpose of these plans is to ensure that we are ready to move immediately and that there is continuous and mandatory monitoring. Under this legislation mandatory monitoring and controls are now possible.

I want to refer to the points made by Senators Caffrey, Bonner and Norris. We have already carried out pilot studies on eye in the sky pollution patrols, that is, an aeroplane which can take pictures and carry out an infra-red examination of the water to see if there is any oil or other pollutant on the water. That has been very successful and we are now moving forward to see how this will be done. It may be done in conjunction with current surveillance methods, separately or on a regular basis. Much preparation is being made for the new regime of control and monitoring. That regime will be thorough and ultra modern in that it will make use of up to date measures.

Senator Caffrey said that funding will be needed for surveillance. That is certainly a factor. He also mentioned the gas find off Mayo and hoped that pollution there will be kept under control. A large vessel will be on standby during the entire operation to bore the well. Another experimental well is currently being bored. That vessel, with a large crew, is available for environmental and pollution control work. That is part of the £20 million cost of drilling a well. People in Mayo had been concerned that something would go wrong. Precautions are being taken.

The Senator was also concerned about the need for a deep water port in the area. The site investigations at Killybegs are now virtually completed. Other ports along the west coast will be interested in this. There is need for further development at Killybegs, which is under a lot of pressure at present. Senator Cox said there is the same need on the west coast.

It is hoped that the gas find off the west coast will ultimately be commercial. Senator Cox is anxious, as is Senator Caffrey, that the gas find will benefit the west of Ireland and I am of the same view. If gas is found and brought ashore in the area, it must be of benefit and a major boost [1313] to the west. Economists may say that it should be connected to the national grid and made available throughout the country, but I am of the view that if it is brought ashore in the west, it should help to develop the economy of the area.

Senator Caffrey mentioned section 3 which states that each harbour authority shall have in place an oil pollution emergency plan. He pointed out that the harbour authorities have very little money. This requirement will have to be addressed when it becomes law. Obviously the IMES will have to implement the measure in a phased way and this will begin right away. The expenditure will have to be provided for in the Estimates.

The Senator was concerned also about the report on radioactive waste. I already reported in the Dáil on most of the dumping. The task force was trying to look at the position as comprehensively as possible and it received additional information on dumping in the area. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland carried out studies on its behalf and these will form part of the report which I hope will be available in the near future. The task force has been getting a lot of co-operation and information about nuclear dumping which took place in the past. Some of this information was contained in the available literature but no one noticed it. The titles of radioactive materials are often such that unless one is familiar with the chemical terms, one would not notice what may be contained in the literature.

Senator Caffrey mentioned small boats and harbours along the west coast. I obtained additional money for work to take place in that regard this year. I had a meeting recently with the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy Ó Cuív, regarding Gaeltacht areas. It is hoped to have full co-operation to make the maximum use of the money available to deal with these small harbours. The situation improved this year and it should continue to do so.

We have broken the ice on this matter by emphasising that these areas have a good future, particularly in relation to inshore fishing and leisure activities. A report on inshore fisheries was published approximately three weeks ago and this will form the basis of policy. I asked the Marine Institute to prepare this important report which provides factual information. The report quantified the number of people and families dependent on the inshore fishing industry in areas such as counties Donegal, Mayo, Kerry and west Cork. This will now form the basis of policy development. I was pleased to receive the report because we can now begin to look separately at inshore fishery and its requirements, as distinct from the main white fish fleet, which goes out much further, and the pelagic fleet. Studies have now been carried out in the three areas and they will form the basis of policy.

Senator Bonner spoke about the CFP and blue whiting. I thank him for his comments because we managed to obtain a 50 per cent increase in [1314] quota. On the morning I left for Europe, I was told by a representative of one of the fishing organisations that there was not much point in going because the whole thing was stitched up. This was true. However, my argument was that it should not be stitched up and that the European Union and Commission could not indulge in such practices. The Commission is already in trouble with a caretaker Commission in place. I made it clear that I did not accept the methodology used in arriving at a solution which was, in my view, contrived. I was prepared to go a long way on the issue. The European Union cannot survive if it operates on such a basis. We must be commercial and recognise the importance of lobbyists in the background working to get the best deal they can – that is fair enough – but there must be integrity in relation to the Commission.

The Commission was putting forward, on behalf of the lobbyists, a solution which would specifically damage the interests of Ireland, and to a lesser extent the UK. In the end, Ireland obtained a 50 per cent increase and the UK a much smaller increase. In effect, Ireland was most damaged by the proposals. I thank the German Presidency for its intervention which forced the Commission to concede to Ireland's request. One of the main representatives of the fishermen went home during the day in the belief that we would not succeed. However, I was determined to fight on. Fairness and equity are fundamental to the operation of the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Union.

We have had quantities of catches in recent years. I will discuss the outcome later with the Senator because there was a reduction in the total allowable catch. This is fair enough, but it caused confusion because it was thought that everyone got less for this year. However, it was the methodology that was wrong. Fortunately, the Presidency was prepared to have the matter changed at the last minute.

Senator Bonner referred to our 7,800 kilometres of coastline and to the lack of sewage treatment. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government is doing a job that has never been done before. He is putting approximately £44 million into this area, if I remember correctly. However, there is much more to be done and Senator Bonner is right in saying it is badly needed. He cited Inver Bay, where there was a problem with water quality.

Mr. Bonner: Information on Enda Bonner  Zoom on Enda Bonner  Dungloe Bay.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  It was Dungloe Bay. I was worried when I heard Inver Bay, given the large aquaculture producers there. Senator Bonner also mentioned Burtonport and I will look at the work being done there. My Department provided the money and there are problems with the EPA, but we will try to hurry that as much as we can.

The Senator also mentioned offshore work going to Ayr. I recently received a report on this matter and increasing use is being made of Killy[1315] begs as well as the airport. Relations are obviously very good with the harbour and the whole project improves if that is the case. One problem is that the outer harbour is needed and I hope we can move ahead with that soon.

Senator Bonner also raised the need for finance for the local authorities. Extra money is being made available this year and will be available for smaller harbours. There was £3 million to be made available but the local authorities found £1 million to add to that, bringing the total to £4 million, and a good deal of work is now under way. I am happy that that will continue as people will recognise how valuable is the work.

Senator Norris said that the Bill seemed to concentrate on oil pollution and it does – it deals specifically with the oil pollution convention. He raised the issue of ballast and if there is any oil in the ballast it is covered by this Bill. He referred to organisms in ballast and the IMO is examining this difficult issue. He also mentioned a number of queries Earthwatch raised and asked if sampling is to be pre-emptive or post-active and if sampling is to be continuous. Senator Norris said that continuous monitoring is essential, and it is. These measures will go beyond anything people had in mind. The eye in the sky can detect very small traces of oil in water and will be operated on a continuous basis. The plan is designed to deal not only with the ongoing situation but any emergencies that may arise.

Senator Norris also asked about ships carrying nuclear cargoes. Senator Tom Fitzgerald pointed out that they are covered by the Harbours Acts and dumping has been prohibited among member states for some years. Senator Norris asked about the monitoring of water quality and oil handling facilities. Section 5 provides that a harbour master may carry out either a continuous monitoring or a post factum monitoring in the aftermath of an oil pollution incident, or both. The Bill provides powers to carry out these actions. This might have been done in the past but now there is legislative and statutory power behind the harbour masters and others concerned.

Senator Norris welcomed the £10 million fine for non-compliance, which is pre-emptive, while there is a potential fine of up to £195 million for cleaning up and compensation, which is very substantial. He also raised the matter of phosphorous devices, which we took very seriously. I thank the Irish Marine Emergency Service, the coastal units of the Civil Defence, the gardaí and others who helped in the search for these devices and apparently located all of them fairly quickly through detailed beachcombing.

Senator Norris said that ships are now more vulnerable to Atlantic storms. That is true, but they are also now being built better to withstand accidents and emergencies with double shells and other innovations being used. Ireland is carrying out research on the Atlantic in conjunction with the United States to monitor the development of these storms because they occur so frequently. [1316] The United States has contributed $6 million to this project and the Marine Institute is working in co-operation with their American colleagues on this important development, which will provide valuable information in the future.

Senator Norris referred to E.coli in Dublin Bay. One need only look at the raw sewage going into the sea off Howth to realise there could be plenty of E.coli there. Happily, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has provided money to deal with this matter and I recently approved a foreshore licence and lease for a major pipe for sewage across Dublin Bay from Sutton to Ringsend. There will be no more sewage of this type going into Dublin Bay. It is a valuable development that will have a dramatic effect on Dublin Bay in future and will make it safer for children to swim there. I do not understand why the media are not making more of this. It is one of the biggest recent developments for Dublin people and will affect all of Dublin Bay. That investment is being made with EU assistance. Approximately three weeks ago, having done all the necessary studies, we gave clearance for a massive pipe to run from Sutton to the Ringsend treatment works. I look forward to the completion of this project. It will have a huge impact on water quality in Dublin Bay, about which Senator Norris was very concerned.

The use of European Union seas as rubbish dumps is coming to an end. Dumping has been prohibited for a number of years and there are heavy penalties for this illegal activity. As I explained, we are at all times tightening up regulations and controls on the abuse of the seas. That is obviously important to us.

Senator Norris asked a list of questions, including whether the sampling will be continuous. The Bill provides powers for continuous pre-emptive sampling, which the Senator was seeking. We are also providing for eye in the sky pollution controls which will carry out close monitoring. With regard to fines, which he also mentioned, it is agreed that £10 million and £195 million fines are substantial fines.

Ballast water is a separate matter. The IMO is examining it in so far as it affects oil, to which this Bill relates. The oil aspect is included in the Bill. Pollution outside harbours also comes within the remit of the Bill. Senator Tom Fitzgerald referred to this and I will do so in a moment. The Senator wanted to know whether nuclear waste is included. It is treated separately, not in this Bill.

Senator Cox was concerned about pollution from across the Atlantic or from the Gulf of Mexico and welcomed the provisions in the Bill to combat the major dangers to the west coast from serious pollution. The Bill will strengthen the hand of those who are trying to protect our oceans and shores. She was also concerned about the gas find off the west coast and wanted a pipeline to serve the west. I agree with her on that. She and Senator Caffrey will have to monitor that matter as time moves on.

Turning to Senator Tom Fitzgerald's points, he [1317] stated the most recent Harbours Act dealt with nuclear issues. He mentioned Ventry Harbour under section 12. Harbour limits can be extended and I did that in Bantry for vessels which were berthing and sheltering in deep water close by. The limits can be extended and the harbour authority can collect fees.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  The same is happening in Ventry.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Perhaps that is worth pursuing. We will examine it. In the case of Bantry major vessels were sheltering there. The Senator welcomed the harbour plan.

Senators have given the Bill a thorough reading on Second Stage. It strengthens our hand in dealing with oil pollution. The purpose of the directive under which this legislation comes, is to take the actions we have mentioned.

It will also strengthen the hand of the marine emergency service. It formally designates the service as the authority to deal with these matters – it already deals with this but it is now formally designated to do so. The Bill also sets out clearly the important powers IMES will have in this regard. IMES has sought these powers and to date it have done a very good job in this regard. The service sees these measures as strengthening its ability to provide a clean environment around our coast and to get to grips with this issue, in what Senator Norris called a pre-emptive way. The plans are pre-emptive. We must have pre-emptive plans to show how it will be done.

I accept there will be costs involved, as Senators have said. We are meeting some of these costs now. The Government is working on the provision of funds in Estimates and budgets to meet those costs. These measures will involve further provision of funds, but they are essential to protect our coastline and coastal facilities. These include leisure facilities and, as Senator Bonner mentioned, facilities for the seafood sector. I thank Senators for their comments.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  Now, with the agreement of the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Agreed to take Committee Stage now.


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