(26) Environmental Law

SEA POLLUTION ACT, 1991

Environmental-Law

  1. Introduction

The Sea Pollution Act 1991 gives effect to the London Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 (the MARPOL Convention), as amended by the London Protocol of 1978. It also gives effect to the London Protocol Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution by Substances other than Oil 1973 (the Intervention Protocol). The Sea Pollution Act 1991 also repeals the Oil Pollution of the Sea Acts 1956 to 1977 and provides for other related matters.

2. Definitions

Section 3 of the Sea Pollution Act 1991 provides a number of definitions, the most important of which are as follows:

‘Discharge’ is defined for the purposes of the Sea Pollution Act in relation to oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances, harmful substances, sewage or garbage or any effluent containing any of those substances as meaning: any release, howsoever caused, from a ship and includes any escape, disposal, spilling, leaking, pumping, emitting or emptying of any substance from a ship, but does not include

(a) Dumping, within the meaning of the Dumping at Sea Act 1981; or

(b) The release of oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances or harmful substances directly arising from the exploration exploitation and associated offshore processing of sea bed mineral resources; or

(c) The release of oil, oily mixtures, noxious liquid substances, or harmful substances for the purpose of legitimate scientific research into pollution abatement or control.

‘Garbage’ is defined as meaning: all kind of victual, domestic and operational waste (excluding fresh fish and parts thereof) and any other substance generated during the normal operation of a ship and liable to be disposed of either continuously or periodically other than a substance specifically regulated by [the] Act.

‘Harbour’ is defined as including: any dock, pier, wharf, jetty, boat slip, offshore terminal, installation or place intended or used for the accommodation, berthing or anchorage or for the shipping, unshipping or transshipping of goods.

‘Harmful substance’ means: any substance which, if introduced into the sea, is liable to:

(a) Create hazards to human health;

(b) Harm living marine resources;

(c) Harm flora and fauna;

(d) Damage amenities; or

(e) Interfere with legitimate uses of the sea, and any substance subject to control by the MARPOL Convention or prescribed under s 10 as a harmful substance and includes any such substance carried at sea, however carried.

‘Inspector’ is defined as: a person being:

(a) A surveyor of ships; or

(b) A person appointed to be an inspector by warrant of the Minister for Communications and Natural Resources (the ‘Minister’) under s 20; or

(c) An officer holding a commissioned naval rank in the Defence Forces; or

(d) A member of the Garda Síochána.

The ‘Intervention Convention’ means: the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties 1969, done at Brussels on the 29th day of November, 1969.

The ‘Intervention Protocol’ means: the Protocol Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution by Substances other than Oil done at London on the 2nd day of November, 1973.

‘Maritime casualty’ means: a collision of ships, stranding or other incident of navigation, or other occurrence on board a ship or external to it resulting in material damage or imminent threat of material damage to a ship or cargo.

‘Master’ is defined as: the person having, for the time being, the command or charge of the ship.

‘Noxious liquid substance’ means: any liquid substance which, if introduced into the sea, is liable to:

(a) Create hazards to human health;

(b) Harm living marine resources;

(c) Harm flora and fauna;

(d) Damage amenities; or

(e) Interfere with legitimate uses of the sea; and any liquid substance prescribed under s 10 as a noxious liquid substance.

‘Oil’ is defined as meaning: (other than in s 26) ... petroleum in any form including crude oil, fuel oil, diesel oil, lubricating oil, sludge, oil refuse and refined products and any oil or oily mixture prescribed as such under s 10 but does not include any substance prescribed as a noxious liquid substance ‘Oily mixture’ means: a mixture which has any oil content.

‘Owner’, in relation to a ship, is defined as: the person registered as the owner of the ship, the person who owns the ship, and, in the case of a ship which is owned by a state (including the state) and is operated by a person who in that state is registered as the ship’s operator, ‘owner’ means the person registered as such operator.

‘Pollution’ is defined as including: when used without qualification ... pollution by oil, by an oily mixture, by a noxious liquid substance, by a harmful substance, by sewage or by garbage.

‘Sewage’ means:

(a) Drainage and other wastes from any form of toilets, urinals and water closet scuppers on board a ship; or

(b) Drainage from medical quarters on board a ship by way of wash basins, wash tubs and scuppers located in such quarters; or

(c) Drainage from spaces containing live animals on board a ship; or

(d) Any other waste water discharged from a ship when such water is intermingled with any of the drainages specified at paragraphs (a), (b) or (c).

‘Ship’ is defined as: a vessel of any type whatsoever operating in the marine environment and includes hydrofoil boats, air-cushioned vehicles, submersibles, floating craft and fixed or floating platforms and includes fixtures, fittings and equipment.

3. Application of the Sea Pollution Act

Section 4(1) provides that the Sea Pollution Act shall not apply to any warship or to any ship for the time being used by the government of any country for purposes other than commercial purposes.

The Minister may make regulations exempting, subject to such conditions (if any) as may be specified in the regulations, any class or classes of ships registered in the state from compliance with any provision of the Sea Pollution Act or of any of the regulations made under the Sea Pollution Act, where he is satisfied that such an exemption would not result in a mere risk of pollution.

4. Discharge of oil, oily mixture and related substances

Part II of the Sea Pollution Act deals with the prevention of pollution. Section 10(1) gives the Minister power to make regulations prohibiting or regulating the discharge anywhere at sea from a ship registered in the state, or the discharge in the state from any ship, of any oil, oily mixture, noxious liquid substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage. The Minister may also make regulations, pursuant to the section, governing prescribed operations on board ship relating to any such substance carried on the ship.

Section 10(3) of the Sea Pollution Act provides that regulations made under s 10 may relate to ships generally or to any class of ship, to substances generally or any description of substance and may be made subject to such conditions and such exemptions as may be rescribed. Section 10(4) of the Sea Pollution Act gives the Minister power to provide by regulations that any prescribed substance shall be a harmful substance, a noxious liquid substance, an oil or oily mixture, sewage or garbage, for the purposes of the Sea Pollution Act.

The Minister may also, by regulations made under s 10(5) of the Sea Pollution Act, require the notification at such time and in such manner as may be prescribed, by the master or owner of a ship carrying any prescribed substance of any intent to load or unload any such substance in the state.

5. Offence to contravene regulations made under s 10(1) of the Sea Pollution Act

Where any regulations made under s 10 are contravened, the owner and the master of the ship in respect of which there is a contravention shall be guilty of an offence under s 10(2) of the Sea Pollution Act.

6. Matters not covered by regulations made under s 10 of the Sea Pollution Act

Section 11 provides that regulations made under s 10 of Sea Pollution Act shall not apply:

(a) To the discharge into the sea of any oil, oily mixture, noxious liquid substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship, or saving life at sea, if such discharge was, having regard to all the circumstances, necessary and reasonable; or

(b) To the discharge into the sea of any oil, oily mixture, noxious liquid substance, harmful substance, sewage or garbage which resulted from any damage to the ship, or to its equipment provided that all reasonable steps have been taken after the occurrence of the damage, or, as the case may be, the discovery of the discharge, to prevent or minimize the discharge and the owner or the master did not act with intent to cause damage or recklessly; or

(c) To the discharge into the sea of any prescribed substance for the purpose of minimizing the damage from pollution, provided that the discharge was sanctioned by or on behalf of the Minister.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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