Authorised officers may inspect and examine vessels inspect a log and require such records and documents as pertaining to the vessel as they may require master or members of the crew to provide them with such information and produce such records as they may reasonably require.  Obstruction, interference, or failure to comply with the requirement constitutes an offence subject on summary conviction to fine up to €5000 or imprisonment up to six months.

An unsafe ship may be detained by officers of the Department if it is unsafe to proceed to sea because of danger to human life.

In relation to certain offences, there are now provisions for penalty notices in respect of certain offences.

Foreign qualifications and certificate of competencies for skippers, deck officers, engineers, engine operators and others may be recognised in Ireland.

Where an offence is committed by a company, any director, manager etc.  who consented to or connived or whose neglect caused the offence may be prosecuted in the same manner as the company.

Where a member of Garda Siochana or a person authorised has reasonable grounds for believing that a vessel is unseaworthy and is going out to sea, it may be detained.  The vessel may be detained in the case of a pleasure craft until it is made seaworthy and in the case of other vessels, until it is made seaworthy to the satisfaction of the surveyor of ships by certificate issued.

Reasonable charges may be made to cover the cost of seizure and detention and survey.

Where the vessel is detained and not made seaworthy within a reasonable period to the satisfaction of a member of An Garda Siochana or authorised person, a notice of intention to the spouse of the vessel may be given unless representations are made to the contrary.  Where a  decision to dispose is made, notice this to be given and the owner may appeal to the District Court.  If there is no appeal, the vessel may be disposed off.

Goods vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer of a prescribed weight shall not be loaded on to a ship unless valid information is furnished regarding its weight.  The master must ascertain whether it can be safely loaded in light of the information.

It is an offence to navigate a vessel on Irish waters without due care and intention to persons in those waters or on land adjacent to them. No person in Irish waters may navigate or operate a vehicle in a method which in the circumstances of the case is dangerous to persons on those waters or land.

A person who without reasonable excuse contravenes the above is liable if the contravention causes death or serious bodily harm on conviction of up to five years, imprisonment or fine not exceeding €100,000 or both.  Otherwise he is liable on summary conviction to a fine up to €5000 and imprisonment up to six months.

Certain defences are available including the person was under instructions of another in command of the vessel concerned and was not unreasonable in the circumstances of so act.  If he took all reasonable steps to avoid the collision, but due to the nature of the vessel and the service for which it was intended, whether navigational or tidal conditions to collision it was not possible to stop the vessel or change course in order to avoid the collision or incident.

If a person on board a vessel

  • does anything which causes or is likely to cause loss or destruction or serious damage to the vessel, machinery, navigation or safety equipment, loss or destruction to any other vessel or the death or serious injury of any other person,
  • fails to do anything to preserve the vessel from loss, destruction or damage,
  • fails to preserve a person on board a ship from death or serious injury or fails to prevent the vessel from causing loss or destruction and
  • the act or omission was deliberate or amounted to breach or neglect of duty or the person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the person is guilty of an offence. The provision applies to a master or other member of a crew.

A person guilty of an offence may be convicted on summary conviction fine up to €5000 or six months imprisonment or both or on indictment fine up to €100,000 or two years imprisonment.

It is an offence for a person to be in command of a member of a crew operating a vessel or attempting to do so or carrying out duties in relation to it while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a combination.  He is liable on summary conviction for the offence up to €5000 and or three months imprisonment.

A person in charge of a vessel or in command may refuse to permit a person who in his opinion by reason of influence of alcohol or drugs is in such a condition or misconducts himself in such a manner as to cause injury or serious offence or annoyance for persons on the vessel or cause damage or obstruct or impede a member of a crew or vessel.  Such a person may be put ashore at a convenient place.  A person who has been refused permission or put ashore is not to be entitled to repay his fare.

A person in command of or in charge or another member of a crew of a vessel if under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination to such an extent as to impair his ability to discharge his duties is guilty of an offence of up to €5000 on summary conviction.

A person on board a vessel who without justification engages in behaviour that is likely to cause serious offence or annoyance to any person, or if any time, having been requested by a member of the crew to cease such behaviour, is guilty of an offence.  A person on board a vessel who engages in behaviour of a threatening, abusive, insulting nature whether by word or gesture with intention to breach the peace is guilty of an offence.  In the first case, summary conviction up to €2000.  In the second case, summary conviction up to €5000 and six months imprisonment or both.

It is an offence for a person on board a vessel in Irish waters to deliberately do a reckless action or by reason of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination, to endanger the safety, security or seaworthiness of a vessel and the safety of persons on board.  Liable on conviction summarily to a fine up to €5000 and six months imprisonment or both or on conviction on indictment €100,000 or imprisonment for a term of two years or both.

The master of a passenger boat or ship or other vessel carrying passengers may give directions to passengers on board which are reasonable in relation to the safety or security of, or safety procedures on the boat in order to ensure compliance the above.  A direction shall not be given to a passenger in relation to anything which is a duty or task of the crew of the boat of which would be unreasonable or inappropriate for him to carry out.

The direction may be made in relation to issues of drugs, drink or any behaviour, disturbance or nuisance affecting the safety of persons or constituting a nuisance.  A failure by a passenger to comply is an offence subject on summary prosecution to a fine of up to €500.

The minister may make regulations specifying charts, nautical directions and information as are necessary or expedient for the safe operation of vessels.  Ships  or classes of ships specified be required to carry a copy of the specified publication.  It is an offence to go to sea without the requisite chart, nautical direction or information or publication prescribed.  Subject on summary conviction or fine of up to €5000.

The publication may give guidance to persons in command or of manning or sailing vessels in relation to seamanship, safe operation, safety of passengers and crew, seaworthiness, prevention of abuse of alcohol or interference with archaeological heritage, prevention of pollution, nuisance or interference with heritage, the requirements of the merchant shipping act.

A vessel may not, without lawful authority impede or interfere with any other vessel leaving or attempting to leave a port or harbour.  This is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine of €5000 or on indictment to a fine of €250,000.

The Minister or an authorised person may for the purpose of securing safety and security of vessels and persons on them, have a proper operation of the harbour, securing navigable route, providing protection of the heritage, give directions to the owners or master of a vessel.

The direction given or action taken may any or more of the following:

  • Movement of the vessel, restraint or control of a vessel or its movement, attendance of tugboats or other vessels.
  • Boarding of a vessel for the purpose of giving advice or assistance are assessing damage, preventing movement, restraint and control of the vessel.
  • Restriction of navigation within specified areas or the establishment of temporary exclusion periods around a vessel.
  • Unloading of ship, equipment or cargo.

A vessel may not be unduly detained from proceeding with its voyage.

A person who unreasonably or without a reasonable excuse contravenes or fails to comply with the direction, obstructs a person in complying with a direction is guilty of an offence. It is subject on summary conviction fine up to €5000, on indictment fine up to €250,000.  Expenses incidental to the taking of action by the minister or an Authorised person may be recovered from the owner of the vessel.

The minister may appoint authorised persons to enforce legislation.  It is an offence to obstruct a member of An Garda Siochana or Authorised person in the course of his duties subject to find of €5000 on summary conviction.

An authorised person or a member of An Garda Siochana may board and inspect a vessel on Irish waters or on land adjacent to it.  He may request a person on board whom he believes/suspects as committing an offence to give his name and address.  If the person without reasonable cause fails, gives a misleading name is guilty of an offence subject to fine of €1000 on first condition, €2000 and one month imprisonment on subsequent conviction.

A member of An Garda Siochana or member of Defence Force who reasonably suspects a person is committing an offence may arrest him without warrant.  The Defence Force Member is  to be of  commissioned naval rank.  A person in command of a vessel or a person authorised by him or the owner who reasonably suspects a person is committing certain offences may arrest without warrant.  A person authorised may not exercise the power unless he is in uniform and has received training and instruction.  where an authorised person arrests, he must as soon as practicable deliver the person into the custody of An Garda Siochana.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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