The Merchant Shipping Act, 2011 sought to improve safety at sea by making enabling provisions for the making of updated rules and regulations on safety of cargo and passenger vessels.  It cover all categories of vessel including cargo, passenger, fishing vessel and leisure craft.

It enabled further implementation of the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, the SOLAS Convention.  Matters regulated include

  • construction rules of passenger vehicles,
  • cargo ship construction
  • survey rules,
  • radio rules,
  • navigation and tracking rules,
  • cargo ship bulk rules,
  • fire protection rules,
  • rules for lifesaving appliances and
  • arrangements for approval of service stations for inflatable lifesaving appliances.

It provided for measures in the relation to access to passenger vehicles for persons with reduced mobility.  It made new provisions to enable raising of sunken vessels for the purpose of marine casualty investigation by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

It gave the force of law to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 and provided for its  implementation in respect of Irish ships and seafarers.  It updated fines for contraventions and sought to strengthen enforcements of compliance through surveys, inspection, court compliance orders and prosecution.

The definition of Irish ships does not include ships of the Naval Service of the Defence Forces wholly manned by them.

There is provision for prosecution of offences against officers, directors, etc. of the company who consented to or connived at offences by the body corporate.  Such parties are equally liable for such offenses.

New provision was made in relation to the construction rules for passenger ships.  There are provisions for prescribing requirements of the equipment, machinery, fuel use, subdivision, superstructure, stability and electoral installations with which a ship must comply.  They include requirements necessary to implement the provisions of the Safety at Life at Sea Convention.

The rules apply to passenger ships registered in the State and others while in the territorial waters of the State.  The existing provisions are clarified, enabling the Minister to categorise passenger ships to different classes and making different rules for different classes, different circumstances and areas of application.

New provision was made to enable rules in relation to radios to apply to all ships registered and other seagoing ships or within ports of the State.  They are to include requirements necessary to implement provisions of SOLAS.   This expanded the existing rules, beyond seagoing ships.

The Minister may in making radio rules categorise ships into different categories and classes.  They may cover portable radio apparatus for use in life rafts, operational duties of radio personnel and requirements regarding keeping of radio log book.  Inspection and enforcement powers of surveyors of ships are extended.  Fine levels were updated.

New provision is made for navigation and tracking  systems.   This reflects modern terminology and technology.

Ships may be classified in different classes, with different rules for different classes, circumstances and areas of operations.  The enforcement powers of ship surveyors was extended.

Troopships are exempt from specified provisions unless there are questions regarding the ship’s stability.  Fishing vessels and pleasure crafts no longer qualify for certain exemptions.  The amendment  had a minimal effect as fishing vessels were already subject to safety certificate requirements.

The fire protection rules are updated.  The level of fines are increased.

The powers to make construction and survey rules for cargo ships are updated.  As above, different rules may be made for different categories of ship, circumstances and different areas of operation.

New provisions are made in relation to the requirement for cargo ship safety certificates.  Composite certificate may be issued in circumstances following; survey covering a safety equipment certificate, radio certificate and cargo ship safety construction certificate where each fall to be issued in respect of the ship.

Bulk carriers must meet the requirements for cargo ship construction and survey rules.  A Minister may make bulk carrier rules to prescribe requirements in relation to superstructure, subdivision, stability, hull arrangement, equipment and machinery of a bulk carrier.  It amended provisions for inspection of bulk carriers by surveyors of ships.

The provisions are amended to provide for the safety of passenger boats, fishing vessels and pleasure craft.  Different requirements may be made for the types of vehicles and different rules for classes, different circumstances and areas of operation.

The Minister may make rules in relation to persons with reduced mobility for the purpose of making passenger vessels accessible to them.  The requirements of standards may make provisions for enforcement and charging of fees.

Passenger vessels may be classified into different classes for the purpose of making rules with different requirements for different circumstances.

Reduced mobility regulations may apply to owners of passenger vessels, masters, crew and other persons with responsibility for services provided by a passenger vessel.   The Minister must publish draft regulations and request representations from persons who are interested in the proposals.

The regulations may provide for inspection by surveyors of ship and other authorised persons.  Certificates may be refused or suspended, where the requirements are not complied with.  Contravention is an offence on summary prosecution for a fine up to €5000.

The Minister is given powers by regulation to prepare and publish codes of practice in relation to access to passenger vehicles by persons with reduced mobility or in relation to reduced mobility regulations or the implementation of the department; sectorial plans under the Disability Act.

The codes must be made available for public inspection.  It is the duty of the passenger vessels’ owner, master, crew and other persons with responsibility for services to be aware and follow codes of practice.  They are to be admissible in criminal proceedings.

There is a provision for administrative fixed payment systems.  Where an authorised person has reasonable grounds for believing an offence is being committed in relation to the reduced mobility regulations, he may serve a fixed payment notice.  Payment within 21 days may avoid the prosecution.  The fixed payment amount is €500 or such other amount as may be prescribed.

There is provision for powers and arrangements for raising and bringing ashore sunken vessels for the purpose for examining and making arrangements for its inspection, storage and if necessary disposal.  The powers may be exercised by an investigator under the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act Tribunal appointed by the Minister under that Act and the Minister in certain circumstances.

The owner of the raised vessel must be notified when the vessel is no longer required and may reclaim it within 28 days.  Where he does not wish to reclaim and collect it, the party who raised the vessel may dispose of it by sale or otherwise.

The costs of the raising is to be borne by the person who raised it.  The proceeds of sale cannot be set against the cost incurred and the net proceeds must be paid to the owner of the vessel.

The party who has raised the vessel must notify the relevant receiver of wreck.

The provisions in relation to lifesaving appliances and arrangements are updated.  The Ministerial power to make rules for lifesaving appliances and arrangements are updated.   They cover matters such as use of lifeboats, fire, lifejackets, distress signals, time out of drill practices and arrangements for dealing with emergency situations.

The Minister is empowered to make regulations for inspection and approval of service stations for inflatable lifesaving appliances and launching and embarkation appliances.  They may provide for setting and enforcement of service standards for servicing such appliances.  There is provision for fees for inspection of service stations and issuing of certificates of approval.  Contravention is subject a fine of up to €5,000 on summary conviction.

There is new provision in relation to fire protection of ship.  The Minister may different rules for different classes of ships.  Maximum fine is €5000 on summary conviction.

There is provision for inspection of ships by surveyors to check for compliance with fire protection rules.  Fines of up to €100,000 on indictment are provided for.

There is provision for entry into a log book of each occasion om which a boat drill and fire drill is practised and each occasion on which fire saving appliances are examined.   Log books must be maintained and available for inspection.   A master who fails to comply with the obligation is guilty of an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €500.

Irish ships of over 150 tons gross tonnage are prohibited from proceeding to sea on an international voyages, unless the ship is fitted with signalling lamps or devices.  Contravention is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €5000.

Provision is given to the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.  The Minister is enabled to make regulations to fulfil the State’s commitment in respect of Irish ships and the Seafarers Convention. It  provides for surveys, certificates, inspections and monitoring to ensure that ships carry maritime labour certificates and a declaration of maritime labour compliance.

Ships may be inspected by authorised persons for the purpose of enforcement.  Failure to comply with regulations is an offense subject to fine up to €5000 or such lesser amount as may be specified in regulations.

Enforcement is enhanced by provision of further offence of obstructing a ship surveyor.  A person who obstructs, impedes or without reasonable excuse fails to comply with requests of a surveyor in exercise of powers is guilty of an offence.  It is subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €5000.

A new enforcement mechanism is provided by way of an enforcement notice issued by a ship surveyor or an authorised person.  If they are not complied with, the authorised person or surveyor may apply to the Circuit Court for a compliance order.   The owner or master may appeal to the Circuit Court against the requirements of the notice.

An operator who has been served with a notice may also appeal.   A Circuit Court decision is final save on that there is a further appeal to the High Court on a point of law.

The provisions enabling the Minister to make regulations regarding numbers and personnel which ships must carry are updated.  The regulations may provide for issue, form and recording of certificates or other documents and provide for a fee for their issue.


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