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Written Answers. - Fishing Vessels.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 55. Mr. M. Higgins Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey  if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed by trade union officials regarding the treatment of crews on vessels operating under flags of convenience; if he has received representations from the trade unions on this matter; if he will take steps to have such vessels returned to the country of ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3493/02]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey Zoom on Frank Fahey I am aware of the International Transport Workers' Federation's concerns about the treatment of crews on vessels operating under flags of convenience. All merchant vessels of any significant size must be registered. There are over 140 ship registers in operation world-wide. Ship registers impose obligations on ship owners regarding maintenance, crewing standards and certification of those matters by the flag state or inspection bodies duly authorised by the flag state.

I am advised that the practice of using flags of convenience, involving what is perceived as lenient regulatory requirements, is still permissible under international law. As Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources I have responsibilities in relation to the Irish Ship Register. However, the operation of other ship registers is governed by applicable national and international law and I am precluded from taking unilateral action.

Foreign registered vessels using Irish ports are inspected regularly by the Marine Survey Office of my Department in the exercise of Ireland's port state control obligations. These inspections are aimed at ensuring that such vessels are maintained and operated in compliance with international safety standards laid down by the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, and, in relation to seafarers' social conditions, by the maritime conventions of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, together with relevant EU initiatives in the maritime area. Deficiencies identified are brought to the attention of the owner and flag state administration, and, may have to be rectified before the ship continues its journey.

My Department is currently actively addressing the strategic and operational aspects of delivery of its maritime safety regulatory services, including port state control. A detailed review of the services was commissioned in 1999 and the main recommendations of the report of the review, which was completed in October, 2000, are now being implemented. The new maritime safety directorate will be operational early this year and [1580] an additional ten vessel surveyors are currently being recruited to the Marine Survey Office, which will form an integral part of the new directorate.

Ireland participates in IMO and ILO discussions on seafarers' welfare, supporting proposals aimed at improving their terms and conditions of employment. Maritime safety standards will be further augmented this year with the implementation of two EU Council Directives which deal respectively with the organisation of working time for seafarers and with the enforcement through inspections of provisions in respect of seafarers' hours of work on board vessels calling at Community ports.

Ireland will continue to support all efforts to enhance working conditions for seafarers on board flag of convenience and indeed all vessels and will continue to enforce safety and operational standards through the port state control framework.

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