The Merchant Shipping Act 2005 makes provision for regulation of the safety of pleasure craft as well as that of its occupants and third parties who may suffer loss or injury from its use. Regulations may be made in relation to standards of seaworthiness and safety for different classes of craft.
It requires compliance with standards of construction and maintenance. It requires specified life-saving firefighting, radio and navigation equipment. It provides for periodic surveys of craft and their equipment and prohibit use without a survey certificate. It provides for registration of pleasure craft, licensing and certification of persons in control.
The Act regulate the use of craft by reference to age, qualification of the person in control. Its prohibit the use of craft of specified categories in particular circumstances. It prohibits the consumption of alcohol or drugs by persons in control. It requires the use of personal flotation devices for particular classes of craft. It limits the number of persons that may be carried. It regulate the towing of anything by pleasure craft and other matters as are appropriate. Contravention of the regulations may constitute an offence subject on summary conviction to fine up to €5000 or imprisonment of up to six months.
Bye-laws may be made regarding the regulation and control of craft of specified classes by any of the local authority, harbour authority, or Waterways Ireland. They may prohibit or restrict in inland waters or specified waters generally of a particular craft or classes of craft or at particular times in the interests of safety of persons prevention of nuisance. Bye-laws may protect a national heritage area, a monument or wreck protected under national monuments legislation.Breach of bye-laws is subject on summary conviction to fines of up to €1000 or in some cases €2000.
Regulations may deal with matters relating to launching, mooring and berthing of craft and conditions to be observed by operators with regard to the waters or the adjacent area in which the craft are operated.
The Authority may prohibit or restrict the operation of craft and erect and maintain notices giving details of the prohibition or restriction. Where the local authority makes byelaws, this must be done by the elected members. There are prescribed procedures for making byelaws.
The Maritime Safety Act 2005 strengthens the law in relation to the improper use of mechanically propelled watercraft such as jet skis and other recreational craft of at least 2.5 m and less than 24 m in territorial waters in the interest of public safety and prevention of nuisances.
Power to make bye-laws to regulate and control operation of crafts of the type above to local authorities, Waterways Ireland, harbour companies, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (in relation to the five fishery harbours) and Iarnród Éireann.
Fines of up to €2,000, on summary conviction offences under the bye-laws may be provided for. There may be fixed payment notices/on the spot fines. There is provision for the seizure, detention and forfeiture of craft, which are involved in the offences. There is provision for disqualification of persons found guilty of serious offences from operating craft of the type concerned.
Where a person authorised by the authority or a member of Garda Siochana has reasonable grounds for believing that a person is operating a craft on waters where it is prohibited, or in prohibition of byelaws on circumstances where they comprise a risk or danger to person’s property or a serious nuisance or a risk of damage to a national heritage area, he may require cessation of operation of the craft, removal of the craft, or allow an authorised person or Garda Siochana to remove the craft. Failure to comply without reasonable excuse is a summary offense subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €2000.
Where a person commits a certain offense, the Garda Siochana or authorised officer may if it is reasonably necessary in the interest of public safety or to prevent danger to persons or damage to a national heritage area as above, seize and detain craft to which the alleged offense occurs until the relevant, as is reasonably necessary. Charges may be made for release to cover reasonable expenses incurred in seizure or detention.
It is an offence to operate a craft in Irish waters without reasonable consideration for other persons using, or adjacent to the water or at a speed which is unreasonable in the circumstances are in the place. Breach is an offence subject on summary prosecution to a fine of up to €1000.
An authorised person or member of the Garda Siochana may board and inspect a craft in or adjacent to Irish waters for the purpose of enforcement of the legislation. They make the request a person whom they suspect of committing an offence to give his or her name and address.
Where a person without reasonable excuse fails to stop a craft when required, allow its inspection or refuses to give a name and address or gives one which is misleading, he is guilty of an offence on summary conviction to a fine up to €1000 on a first offence and €2000 or a term of imprisonment up to €1000 for one month or both on subsequent offences.
It is an offence to obstruct or impede member of An Garda Siochana or an authorised officer in exercise of its functions. It is subject on summary conviction of a fine of up to €5000 or imprisonment up to three months or both.
Where a Garda reasonably suspects a person has committed an offence under the legislation or certain other legislation involving careless or dangerous navigation or operation of craft, the person may be arrested without warrant. An authorised person has limited powers of arrest within the functional area of the Authority.
He must have received training and instruction in the opinion of the authority after consultation of the Gardaí, which provides guidance in the exercise of the powers. Where an authorised person arrests a person as above, he must as soon as practicable deliver the person into the custody of a member of An Garda Siochana.
Where the owner or a person with an ownership interest in a craft or a person who permits the owner to operate the craft is convicted on indictment of offenses concerning dangerous navigation or operation, the court may in addition to any penalty, order that the craft, its equipment and furnishings or the appropriate share be forfeited to the authority in whose functional area the offense was committed and may make such other orders ancillary to the forfeiture. An authorised person or member of An Garda Siochana make give effect to the order by seizing and detaining the craft.
A person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offence within two years under the legislation involving careless navigation or operation of a craft or dangerous navigation may be prohibited from operating a craft for a period in Irish waters. In certain cases a fixed period of two years is specified and in other cases the court has discretion as to the ban.
A person who is subject to a ban may apply after a certain period for removal of the prohibition. Operation of a craft while a prohibition order is in force constitutes an offense subject on summary conviction to a fine of up to €5000 or imprisonment for up to three months or both.
In the case of certain offences, an authorised person or member from Garda Siochana may issue a fixed penalty notice. There are various levels of fixed penalty notice depending on the seriousness of the offense. Where the fixed penalty notice amount is paid, a prosecution is not to be instituted. This is effectively an administrative fine.
Authorised persons may be appointed to undertake the above duties by the relevant authority such as:
- Harbour authority.
- Waterways Ireland.
- Harbour Company.
- The Minister in the case of fishery harbours.
- The Harbour Board / Authority in the case of harbours under its control.Authorised persons are to have warrants of appointment and may be assisted in the exercise of their functions.
There are exemptions for bylaws relating to craft for:
- Defence forces.
- Garda Siochana.
- The relevant authority.
- Revenue commissioners.
- Inland Fisheries Ireland, Coast Guard.
- Commissioners for Irish Life.
That is provision for the seizure and detention of craft suspected to be involved in serious offences or being carelessly or dangerously operated. There is provision for release of crafts seized conditional on payment of reasonable cost of seizure, storage etc.
The operation of crafts of the type concerned without reasonable consideration or at unreasonable speed is an offence.
There are provisions for the stopping and inspection of crafts by authorised persons or member of An Garda Síochána. It is an offence to fail to cooperate. The person in charge must furnish his name and address. It is an offence to unreasonably fail to comply, subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €1,000 on first offence and €2000 for second and subsequent offences.
It is an offence subject to a fine on summary conviction, not exceeding €3,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months for a person to obstruct an authorised member, person or member of An Garda Síochána in the exercise of their functions.
A court may forfeit a craft for the benefit of the State on conviction of the owner. Possessor of a craft under hire purchase or letting agreement may be an owner for certain purposes.
There is provision for automatic disqualifications for period up to two years (or more when a dangerous operations is involved) of convicted persons from operating crafts, of the relevant type. There is provision for automatic disqualification of a convicted offender for a period up to two years where careless operation of the craft is involved. There are higher penalties and automatic disqualifications in the case of subsequent offences by the same person.
It is an offence subject to a fine on summary conviction up to €3000 or imprisonment up to three months for a person to operate craft of the types in question while disqualified. A person disqualified for more than six months may apply to court to have the disqualification reviewed.
There are provisions for on the spot fines. Fixed penalty notices of €150 is applicable to more serious offence, with lower fixed penalty offences of €50. They must generally be paid within 21 days to avoid prosecution.
Authorised persons other than members of An Garda Síochána may give effect to the regulation and control of crafts of the type concerned under the legislation. The relevant authorities above may appoint authorised persons to act on their behalf. Authorised persons appointed by a council may act within their functional area.
An authorised person may be issued with a warrant of appointment. They may be assisted by other persons as necessary. The legislation does not apply to the operation of crafts operated in the course of duty by any of the authority specified or by law enforcement agencies or certain other bodies such as the RNLI, Irish Coast Guards, Commissioners for Irish Lights, fisheries authority etc.
There is an offence for breach of bye-laws relating to launching, mooring or birthing craft, conditions to be complied with in operating crafts and maximum speed limits for craft, subject to fines of not up to €1,000 where bye-law so provide.
There is an offence subject to a fine not exceeding €1,000 on summary conviction per person of allowing himself to be carried on or towed by a craft in an area prohibited under bye-laws. There is provision for €2,000 fines on second and subsequent convictions.
Directive 2013/53/EU on recreational craft and personal watercraft
It updates legislation covering the design and manufacture of motor and sailing craft.
It seeks to ensure that, by complying with the same standards, there is fair competition for these products in the EU market.
The directive lays down requirements for manufacturers, importers and distributors of watercraft and builds on legislation adopted in 2003 which included limits on engine exhaust emissions (CO, HC, NOx and particulates) and noise levels to reflect technological developments that have resulted in improved environmental performance.
The new directive specifies design categories (A, B, C and D) for boats, based on suitability for navigation conditions such as ranges of wind force and significant wave height.
All watercraft, designated components and propulsion engines are subject to CE marking, indicating that a product complies with the relevant EU legislation. CE marking has to be affixed on the craft builder’s plate, mounted separately from the craft’s identification number in the case of watercraft and directly on the engine in the case of a propulsion engine.
Other essential requirements include:
an identification number for each watercraft and a requirement to carry the craft’s builder’s plate;
the need for craft to be designed to minimise the risk of falling overboard and to allow for easy reboarding;
good all-round visibility for the operator, under normal conditions;
a written manual to accompany all craft to ensure their safe use;
sufficient structure, stability and buoyancy in accordance with its design category;
an emergency stopping device for all tiller-controlled outboard propulsion engines.
Manufacturers must comply with the directive’s requirements by 18 January 2017, while small and medium-sized enterprises that manufacture some smaller outboard spark-ignition propulsion engines have until 18 January 2020.
Application & Background
It applies from 17 January 2014. EU countries have to incorporate it into national law by 18 January 2016. It repeals Directive 94/25/EC with effect from 18 January 2016.
Directive 2013/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on recreational craft and personal watercraft and repealing Directive 94/25/EC (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, pp. 90–131)
Successive amendments to Directive 2013/53/EU have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.