The Merchant Shipping Acts make extensive provision for standards in relation to passenger ships.  Various international safety conventions have modernised and harmonised law relating to the standards for passenger ships. The legislation has been updated from time to time accordingly

The  1894 legislation, parts of which are still in force covered emigrant ships, which  was every seagoing ship containing more than 50 steerage passengers in the proportion, as to sailing ships  of  one  adult to 33 tons of registered tonnage or in the case of a steamship, one adult to every 20 tons of registered tonnage. An adult is 12 years or more.  Steerage passengers were those in the cabins or upper decks.

Passengers steamers must be surveyed and certified by a shipwright surveyor of ships and an engineer surveyor of ships, approved by the Department. A shipwright or engineer surveyor, shall if  the owner requires,  be accompanied on the survey by a representative of the owner. The certificates are annual.

A declaration of survey must be furnished to the Department. The Department if satisfied, may issue a certificate of compliance.  The certificate would state the limits in which the ship may operate and the number of passengers. There is provision for appeal against the declaration of surveyor or refusal of a declaration to the court of survey for the port or district concerned.

A certificate of survey must be displayed prominently on the ship. The certificate may be cancelled if there is any fraud  or error in the declaration, if there is subsequent damage to the ship. The owner or master of a ship may not receive passengers in breach of the terms of the certificate.

There are a range of offences which may be committed by passengers.  The Master or other officers may detain persons without warrant who commit offences and convey them before the courts or police.

There are offences in relation to the following.

  • being drunk and disorderly,
  • molestation of passengers
  • entering the ship if full (subject to refund of fare.)
  • travelling without fare
  • exceeding the distance paid for
  • refusing to leave
  • refusing to pay fare or exhibit tickets
  • interference with the crew machinery tackle, et cetera.

Emigrant Ship

A certificate of survey is required for an emigrant ship by two or more competent surveyors approved by Department.  They must certify that the ship is seaworthy and fit for the intended voyage.  It as an offence to attempt to proceed to sea without the requisite certificate.

If the surveyors refuse a certificate, the owners or charterer may require an appeal to three  competent surveyors at the expense of the owner or charterers.

The legislation specifies the equipment required on ships.  It specifies certain safety features which must be provided. The legislation has progressively set out in greater details requirement in respect of equipment.

The ship must not carry any explosives nor certain other prescribed dangerous materials. Any cargo which alone or together by reason of quantity or method of storage may become a health hazard is forbidden.  Animals may not be carried other than subject to detailed conditions.

The Department may authorise the carriage of cargo on a passenger ship in accordance with conditions.

Regulations may provide for standards of cleanliness, ventilation and control of disease on board ships. Regulations may be made in relation to ventilation, accommodation, sanitation facilities, light. There are provisions in respect of required to food, water and medical store.  Officers at the port of disembarkation are entitled to inspect to vouch compliance.

Passengers may not be carried on more than one deck below the waterline. The number of passengers carried may not exceed that certified;

Where there are more than 50 steerage passengers where the number on board exceed 300, a qualified medical practitioner is required with proper equipment. Where there are more than 100 steerage passengers a steerage steward is required for the purpose of messing and serving out provisions to steerage passengers, to assist maintaining cleanliness, good order and discipline.  Where there are more than 100 passengers more than one more steerage cooks are required depending on the number. The ship must be crewed efficiently and sufficiently for the purpose.

A ship may not be cleared outwards unless either a medical practitioner or immigration officer undertakes a medical inspection confirming that none of the steerage passengers or crew appear by reason of bodily or mental disease, unable to proceed or likely to endanger the health and safety of others. A person who is so found may be prohibited from sailing and may be remanded.

The master of the ship must enter a bond to cover the expenses of maintaining and forwarding to their the destination any steerage passengers carried in the ship who by reason of shipwreck or other cause except their own neglect or default, are not conveyed to their intended destinations.

The master of a ship before requesting clearance must sign a duplicate passenger list setting out correctly the details all persons on board.  Details of additional passengers must be added if they arrive after the list is returned.  The list may be left with the customs station at the port concerned.

It is an offence to be on a ship without the consent of the owner, charterer or master. Any person who aids and abets such a person subject to imprisonment, up to 3 months imprisonment on conviction

A ship shall not clear outwards unless the master has obtained a certificate of clearance from the authorities that the ship is seaworthy, fit for the voyage, that the passengers and crew are in a fit state to proceed and the master’s bond has been executed

Passenger contracts must be issued.  There must be a contract ticket printed in plain and legible writing signed on behalf of the ship owner or charterer.  The form of the contract ticket is governed by regulations. Questions in relation to the performance of the contract may be tried before a court of summary jurisdiction.

A passenger who fails to produce his ticket without reasonable cause is guilty of an offence. Passenger brokers must obtain a licence and enter a bond with the Department.

If any ship is unfit to proceed or has been wrecked, there are obligations is in relation to transfer of steerage passengers to another ship.  In such case and in the case of delays in certain circumstances, passengers must be  maintained or given a subsistence money at port.

The masters of incoming ships must deliver a passenger list to the port authorities. There are  provisions for registration of births and deaths on board. The port  authorities may make regulations regarding the mode of landing and embarkation of passengers,  storing and same custody of the luggage,  licensing of porters admitting and excluding persons from the docks and basin. A constable or officer of the authority may arrest at person for  breach of the  byelaws without warrant.

The declaration of survey of a passenger ship registered in  the State must comply with construction rules

  • life-saving appliances rules
  • radio rules,
  • direction finder
  • collision  regulations.

In the case of ships engaged in short international voyages; a short voyage safety certificate may be issued. An exemption certificate in respect of certain aspects of the safety convention may be issued where a ship qualifies for exemption.

The owner or master of a ship must give notice of any  alteration in its hull  equipment or machinery affecting its efficiency to the Department.

The ship registered in the State must not set to sea on an international voyage from the state unless the appropriate certificate is in place.

There are different requirements from the passenger and non-passenger ships.

The master of a ship for which clearance is demanded must produce a certificate required by the provisions to the custom authorities.

On receipt of declaration of survey, the Minister issues a certificate. An international certificate under the safety convention is also accepted.

A vessel used as a passenger ship must be surveyed at least annually.  Certain special types of survey must be undertaken by specialist surveyors.

On receipt of a declaration, the Department, if satisfied that the legislation is complied with, may issue a passenger ship certificate.  The certificate shall specify the limits beyond which the vessel shall not ply, the maximum number of passengers, and the  conditions applicable.

Where a vessel has a safety convention certificate from another state that may either  be automatically recognised, or a more limited form of domestic certificate may be sufficient.

The 1966 Act required every passengers vessel carrying more than 12 passengers to surveyed at least once annually.  No ship other than a steam ferry working in chains may proceed to sea or on a voyage with more than 12 passengers unless there is a certificate of survey under the legislation.

The Merchant Shipping Act 1992 applies to passenger ships being a vessel carrying more than, 12 persons or having on board more than 12 persons for the purpose of carriage. It includes vessels registered outside the state and carrying more than 12 persons between places in the State or having on board more than 12 passenger.  Every passenger ship must be surveyed annually under the legislation.

The 1992 and the 2005 Act increased the penalties significantly.

The survey of the vessels has to be carried out by a surveyor.  Different types of surveyors may deal with different aspects of the survey.  The ship certificates specifies the limits within which the vessels shall ply, the maximum number of passengers and conditions. The certificate must be displayed on board.

A certificate may be cancelled. A false declaration in connection with a survey is an offence.

Passengers ships must have insurance with respect of possible liability to passengers or their property.  A certificate of insurance must be held.  It must be displayed on board.  Failure to comply constitutes an offence.

The 1992 Legislation provided for a passenger boat licence.  A passenger boat is a vessel carrying not more than  12 passengers for reward or having on board the purpose of carriage  not more than 12 persons.  It includes vessels registered outside the state carrying not more than 12 passengers within the State.

A vessel may not be used as a passenger boat unless it has a passenger boat licence.  Failure to have a licence is subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €5,000 and six months imprisonment or an indictment up to €100,000 or imprisonment of two years.

A passenger boat requires inspection and certificate by an authorized person to the effect, the vessel is suitable ,subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be imposed.  This must be furnished prior to the application for the licence.

The licence will contain requirements in relation to limits in which the vessel may ply and the number of persons which it may carry.  It may be subject to such conditions and restrictions as the Department impose.  The licence continues for two years unless previously revoked.

A licence may be refused if the owner of the vessel has committed certain offences. There are provisions for revocation and suspension of licences.  A licence may be suspended pending an authorized person inspecting and approving the vessel.

An authorised person may require the master of a  passenger boat to produce a licence together with  proof of compliance with the regulation.  It is an offence to fail to produce the licence and comply on request.

The Minister may make regulations in relation to the safety of passenger boats, passenger crews and the use of the passenger boat. The regulations may require

  • compliance with standards of seaworthiness
  • construction and maintenance standards
  • Life-saving, firefighting, radio navigation equipment,
  • insurance policies
  • providing for standards of competence of masters and crews,
  • classification of particular types of boats
  • regulating the use of  passenger boats with reference to age and qualifications of the master and crew
  • prohibiting the use of the passenger boats by persons who have  consumed alcohol or drugs requiring personal floatation devices
  • regulating classes of vehicles carried on board,
  • regulation of carriage of goods and of a specified class,
  • regulation of the number of persons may be carried.

The Minister may make regulations exempting certain categories of passenger boats from licensing where it is appropriate to do so having regard to the nature of the vessels and the  use to which they are put.  In  exceptional circumstances, vessels carrying passengers between an inhabited islands and the mainland may be exempted.

The person in charge of a vessel may refuse boarding to  a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, They may be landed on shore.  A person in command or member of the crew is guilty of an offence if he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty to such an extent as to impair his ability to discharge his duties.

A person on board ship may not consume alcohol or drugs in such a combination or quantity as to affect the safety of persons, to create a  disturbance or serious nuisance on board a vessel or affect the safety of other persons using Irish waters.

A person who engages in behaviour that is likely to cause serious offence or annoyance to a person on board is guilty of an offence.  It is an offence to engage in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour either by word or gesture with intent to cause a breach of the peace or being reckless as to whether a breach of the peace might be cause.

It is an offence,, by an deliberate or reckless action, or by reason of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a combination, to puts at risk or endangers life security or seaworthiness of a vehicle, vessel or lives or safety of persons on board.

The master of a passenger boat or  a passenger ship or anyone unauthorised by him may give direction to passengers on board which in the circumstances are reasonable in relation to safety and security procedures on board.  A passenger who fails without reasonable cause to comply with the direction,  is guilty of an offence.

Construction rules

Regulations may be made providing for the safety of passenger boats, safety of crew and passenger safety of property, use, standards of seaworthiness and stability, standards of construction provisions of life-saving, firefighting, radio navigation equipment providing for insurance standards of competence regulating carriage of goods


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