My Lords, the UK ports and shipping industry is a success. It works day in and day out. It is efficient and effective. Ninety-five per cent of the total volume of our import and export trade passes through our ports. It is one of this country’s greatest assets and enables our nation to compete on a global scale. I believe that my Bill will help the industry to grow even stronger and even more efficient, as it recognises the vital role that shipping must continue to play if the United Kingdom is to go forward trading as it does now.
I congratulate Sheryll Murray MP on steering this Bill successfully through the other place. Like me, she has a strong personal maritime connection, which underpins our desire to see this Bill enacted. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who has brought a number of marine navigation Bills before this House in recent years, some of which have included clauses also contained in this Bill.
Maritime traffic faces serious navigational challenges every day—dangerous weather, treacherous tides and currents, underwater hazards, congested waterways and narrow channels. In harbour waters, it is the responsibility of the relevant harbour authority to manage the risks posed by these threats and to understand how they are changing.
One of the tools used to ensure the safe passage of ships is pilotage. Competent harbour authorities are a subset of statutory harbour authorities given responsibility for, and granted powers to provide, pilotage services. Where a competent harbour authority deems pilotage is compulsory, no person shall have the conduct of a ship unless they are an authorised pilot or hold a relevant pilotage exemption certificate for that area. The pilotage exemption certificate mechanism permits competent mariners to pilot their own ship instead of taking on board a pilot. It recognises that regular users of a body of water can be as familiar with the navigational challenges present as a pilot.
Under the Pilotage Act 1987, a competent harbour authority is responsible for authorising pilots and pilotage exemption certificate holders whom they assess as competent. A competent harbour authority may determine how it makes that assessment, recognising that the factors influencing it will be local in nature. For a pilotage exemption certificate holder, the Act specifies that the competent harbour authority must be satisfied that the person has the skill, experience and local knowledge sufficient to pilot the ship within the specified harbour or area over which the competent harbour authority has powers.
Currently, the Act also requires that a pilotage exemption certificate holder be the master or first mate of the ship. This Bill seeks to amend this requirement so that any deck officer—that is, a member of crew with responsibilities for navigating the ship—may hold a pilotage exemption certificate if they are judged competent by the competent harbour authority.
The change will have an immediate benefit on ships where the crewing structure is suitable. It will make it easier to plan crew rosters. As someone who values aspiration and wishes to encourage people to do as well as they can and proceed up the tree, it will aid the career development of young British officers. UK ferry companies are investing in their young officers who are gaining professional experience and proven competency. However, at this time, they cannot apply to demonstrate this in a pilotage exemption certificate examination. Preventing capable officers from holding a pilotage exemption certificate does nothing to improve safety but hinders the nurturing of home-grown talent.
The Bill would also help the competent harbour authorities to manage risks by giving them the power to suspend the pilotage exemption certificate immediately where misconduct is suspected or where the pilotage exemption certificate holder is no longer competent; requiring ships navigating in their waters to report whose pilotage exemption certificate is being used, not simply that a pilotage exemption certificate is being used, as is currently the case; and providing a power for the Secretary of State to remove a competent harbour authority’s pilotage functions and so relieve it of duties and responsibilities where pilotage is no longer necessary.
Another tool for managing risks to safe navigation currently available to some statutory harbour authorities is the power of general direction. Depending on an authority’s legislation, general directions may be issued to all vessels in a harbour area or simply to particular types of shipping either in response to a particular occurrence or as a standing instruction.
Many harbours have secured the power of general direction through private Acts of Parliament or harbour revision orders, governed by the Harbours Act 1964. These routes are cumbersome and expensive to pursue, both for harbour authorities and government. The Bill would institute a simpler mechanism for obtaining similar powers of harbour direction and level the playing field commercially. Harbour directions could only be given to ships and relate to their movement, mooring and unmooring, equipment or manning.
There is a strong argument to say that if a harbour authority is responsible for managing risk in its waters, it should have the tools to do so. That many ports already possess the tools and use them successfully and reasonably is a mark that the proposal in this Bill to make it easier for other harbour authorities to obtain them is one grounded in both logic and proven experience. However, the Bill recognises that conferring the power on new ports should be subject to democratic procedure. Any harbour authority wanting the power will need to apply to be named in an order made by the Secretary of State, or Scottish or Welsh Ministers, as appropriate. There would be a public consultation on the proposal, which would give an opportunity for any objections to a harbour authority being designated with this power to be heard and considered. Later, should a harbour authority no longer need the power or prove itself incapable of using it properly, the order could be revoked.
Clause 5 would require an authority to consult before giving harbour directions. In the other place, it was argued that the Bill should also provide a procedure for resolving disputes about specific harbour directions. Based on the current positive experience of the powers of general direction, I see little need for creating an additional bureaucratic system to deal with what remains, at the moment, only a theoretical possibility. It seems to me that a non-legislative solution—an agreement between ports and port user groups on how to manage dispute resolution—would be greatly preferable.
The Shipping Minister, in a debate on this Bill in the other place, confirmed that discussions were under way between ports associations, the Royal Yachting Association, and the UK Chamber of Shipping to develop a solution on those lines. I know that real progress is now being made towards finalising the code of conduct on harbour directions, which will secure benefits for harbours and harbour users alike. I hope that noble Lords agree that there is no need for us to do battle on harbour directions until the RYA, the port associations and the UK Chamber of Shipping have completed their negotiations.
Another, quite different, risk faced by ports is that of crime and the need to maintain order within the port estate. Six ports in England maintain their own police force to manage that aspect of operations, whose constables have all the powers of any other police constable in relation to matters connected with the port but only within the port estate and up to one mile from its boundary. Increasingly, both ports and local police forces find this geographic limit to their powers very unhelpful. The geographic limit on port constables’ powers is clearly not sensible for the modern day. It is right that they should remain focused on matters connected with the port, or suspected criminals within the port estate, but there is no justification for hobbling their ability to carry out these duties and thereby putting additional burdens on local police resources.
I have mentioned the need for ports to monitor changes in risk as traffic patterns alter. Not often, but occasionally, a reduction in traffic can be so extensive as to render a harbour uneconomic to maintain. The Bill would help statutory harbour authorities to respond to such a situation too by providing the Secretary of State with the power to make a harbour closure order.
Perhaps the most widely recognised mitigation measure for the navigational challenges faced by mariners is the lighthouse. The work of the three general lighthouse authorities, the GLAs, that serve Britain and Ireland, covers more than simple lighthouses. There are other physical and electronic aids to navigation too. In 2014, Trinity House will have served mariners for exactly 500 years. For 230 years, the Commissioners of Irish Lights and Northern Lighthouse Board have done the same.
The Bill will provide clarity in law on two aspects of GLA activity. Clause 8 will specify the area of sea where each GLA may operate. Clause 11 will make it clear that when marking wrecks lighthouse authorities may use electronic means as well as physical aids to do so. In both cases, the provisions confirm the existing practices of the GLAs that help to keep mariners safe.
Clause 9 concerns the ability of the GLAs to earn income from commercial activity by harnessing spare capacity. The considerable expertise of the GLAs in maritime matters is widely recognised and in demand commercially. The existing legislation permits them, subject to the Secretary of State’s approval, to enter into commercial agreements for the use of spare capacity, whether staff or other resources.
However, on occasion, a commercial agreement would require the purchase or hire of additional resources to deliver it in full. Regrettably, the GLAs are compelled to reject these opportunities as being outside their current powers. The Bill would provide the powers necessary to be able to enter into such commercial agreements—again, only with the Secretary of State’s approval.
To sum up, this Bill will greatly assist the ports and shipping industry by removing unnecessary restrictions and granting very necessary freedoms. It will facilitate shipping companies’ rostering of crew and development of talented officers, while always upholding existing safety standards. It will make it easier for harbour authorities to secure vital powers of harbour direction or to relinquish their powers, if appropriate, to reflect changing traffic patterns. It will ensure that ports police and the GLAs have the powers they need to continue delivering essential services efficiently and effectively.
Our valuable maritime sector is eager to see these measures implemented. I very much hope that noble Lords will agree to bring to an end the lengthy wait that it has endured for these measures to make it onto the statute book. I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very pleased to welcome this Bill and to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, for taking it forward in this House. A number of matters are covered in this Bill, and it will not be surprising to noble Lords, given my background as a fourth generation lighthouse keeper, that I will concentrate on the parts of the Bill dealing with the general lighthouse authorities.
The measures in this Bill relating to the GLAs are long overdue. Representations about these issues have been made for some considerable time, and it is good that these are now at long last being taken forward. I was sorry that the Marine Navigation Bill of 2008 did not get beyond the draft stage, and I am delighted that both the Government and the Labour Opposition supported this private Member’s Bill in another place.
First, Clause 8 provides for the first time clarity on the area of geographical responsibility of the lighthouse authorities. As is often the case, legal experts do not agree on meanings of Acts of Parliament, and it seemed never to be possible to get agreement on the meaning of the expression “adjacent seas and islands”, as set out in the Merchant Shipping Act. Notwithstanding the lack of agreement on the precise meaning of present legislation, the GLAs provide aids to navigation, including marking hazards outside the 12 nautical mile limit, as well as lighting internationally recognised sea lanes for the purpose of traffic separation. Added to this is the need to light buoys or beacons on potentially hazardous wrecks outside that limit. This Bill will give legal certainty by making it clear that the responsibility of the GLAs includes the area beyond the territorial seas and up to the outer limit of the UK’s pollution control zone—in other words, 200 nautical miles. It is not new that hazards are marked outside the territorial limit. The iconic Bell Rock lighthouse was built, with parliamentary approval, some 200 years ago, and was outside of the then three nautical mile limit.
Over the years that I have spent in your Lordships’ House, I have quite often taken part in debates where there was understandable concern about the costs to shipowners of light dues and the need to keep these as low as possible. I do not have an issue with that, provided always that the safety of the mariner and the environment is not compromised. So secondly, I welcome the measures in Clause 9, which will provide for more opportunity for GLAs to generate more income for the General Lighthouse Fund. The Merchant Shipping Act, as the noble Baroness said, allows for any spare capacity to be utilised for third-party commercial work, provided such work is not outside the scope of the statutory responsibilities of the GLAs. In reality, the GLAs are constrained in that they are limited to using ships or property assets. One example of that is that the Oban base of the Northern Lighthouse Board is now utilised by small cruise vessels for berthing.
In the period 2011-12, some £4 million was raised by the GLAs from commercial activities. There is little doubt that the measures in this Bill will allow for greater opportunity for commercial work by allowing the purchase of ancillary assets and services which, while not necessarily required for statutory duties, nevertheless can and indeed must be used for exploiting spare capacity.
These past few months, the NLV “Pole Star” has carried out quite a bit of interesting contract work, including recovery of waverider buoys, their guard buoys and seabed frames. The last-mentioned part of that work is extremely delicate due to the fragile nature of the instruments on these seabed frames. No doubt that was greatly assisted by the dynamic positioning capabilities of this very versatile ship. The commercial work carried out by the “Pole Star” included multibeam surveys, camera tows and grab sampling of the seabed. Those are the sort of skills that are available and can be brought to bear whenever there is spare capacity available. That can now be enhanced by the purchase of assets to enable that additional work to be undertaken.
There are a lot of clever people in the employ of the general lighthouse authorities and the Bill will allow for consultancy work and other services which can provide a greater possibility of increasing commercial income and so alleviating some of the costs of the General Lighthouse Fund. It is important to point out that none of these additional activities will prejudice the statutory role and responsibility of the general lighthouse authorities. Purchase of assets from the General Lighthouse Fund for contract work outside of statutory responsibilities will require the consent of the Secretary of State, as has been said, and, clearly, will be given only where the benefit outweighs the costs.
Thirdly, and finally, for the GLAs, I refer to Clause 11. This will provide an extension of the ways in which the GLAs can mark a wreck where there is a danger to navigation. The amendment proposed to the Merchant Shipping Act would allow the wreck to be marked by a non-physical device such as the relatively new automatic identification system as well as the more traditional buoys or beacons. The beauty of marking by electronic means such as AIS means that a hazard can be quickly marked before it is possible for a lighthouse tender to get out to a wreck to lay buoys, beacons or other physical markers. This must enhance the safety of the mariner and provide better protection of the marine environment.
As an aside, I hope that nautical colleges are teaching that the AIS is used not just for tracking other vessels by the watchkeeper on the bridge of ships or by coastal vessel traffic services stations, but is used increasingly as an aid to navigation. I was on the bridge of a ship recently and was talking to a deck officer cadet in his final year who was adamant that it was dangerous to use AIS as an aid to navigation. Clearly, he had never been taught about the concept of virtual AIS, either at Warsash Maritime Academy or on board the ships on which he had served as part of his cadetship.
I again welcome the measures in this Bill which will assist the GLAs to better carry out their good works and at the same time help keep down costs to the shipping industry. I know that other matters are covered in the Bill but I hope that nothing will get in the way of it having a safe and speedy passage through this House and on to the statute book.
My Lords, noble Lords may be a little surprised to find me straying from my usual area of interest in international development policy to join this Second Reading debate, but I have three reasons for doing so: first, a long association with some major ports and with the Royal and Merchant Navies; secondly, historic family ties with the development of pilotage and coastal shipping; and finally, the content of the Marine Navigation Bill itself. By the end of my speech noble Lords may wish that I had stuck to my preferred policy area. Nevertheless, I shall plough on, or perhaps “sail on” is the right expression to use.
In my younger days, I had the good fortune to win a place with the Admiralty as a student engineer based in Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, home to Nelson’s HMS “Victory” and in its heyday the largest industrial complex in the world. There I spent my formative years studying and training in a naval shipping environment. Noble Lords who are familiar with the south of England will know that just along the Solent lies the commercial port of Southampton, famous for its ocean liners connecting the United Kingdom to North and South America, Africa and the Far East. Cunard, P&O, Union Castle—all the great shipping lines sailed out of Southampton and through the Solent with its two tides a day, mixing with the warships out of Portsmouth, the submarines out of Gosport, the ferries to and from the Isle of Wight, France and Spain and, during the summer months, mingling with literally hundreds of pleasure craft on a daily basis.
The skills you learn during your formative years seem to embed themselves more readily, and the grounding I gained in marine engineering from the Admiralty—when we had an Admiralty, that is—together with an awareness of the procedures of sailing, particularly small craft in busy sea lanes, are not entirely forgotten. I believe that they may have some relevance when it comes to examining this Bill.
My second reason for contributing to this debate is in recognition of my forefathers who for generations earned their living as master mariners on the west coast of England and beyond. The family business was running a fleet of coasters under sail down the Bristol Channel and beyond to Wales, Liverpool and Ireland. They sailed out of Watchet, an historic port on the north Somerset coast. Along that coast the tide rises and falls by more than 40 feet and bars were built across harbour entrances to retain sufficient depth of water to keep ships afloat at low tide. At other times harbour bars created a navigational hazard which added to the constraints that needed local pilotage knowledge and skilled deckhands to bring ships under sail safely into port. Coastal ketches and sloops that my ancestors sailed generally had a crew of four or five when under sail at sea. To sail them into or out of Watchet harbour, however, needed extra hands provided by the local community. They were known as hobblers. “Hobbling” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ad hoc unlicensed pilotage. Some might say, “Those were the days”.
Hobbling was lucrative and thus became a competitive occupation. Hobbling families vied with each other to glean advance information of shipping movements ahead of their rivals and secure hobbling work. They would race out to ships in the channel in their rowing boat, put a pilot aboard if the skipper did not have local knowledge, and then sail the ship into its moorings. Inevitably, violence broke out among the three Watchet hobbling families until, in 1864, the landlord of the London Inn, himself a master mariner—one George Chidgey—brought them together and thrashed out agreements to share the work and responsibilities in a sensible manner; thus was formed the Watchet United Sailors Benefit Society and for the first time the long established Watchet Hobblers’ pilotage was regularised as a precursor to the pilotage system we are debating today. Some time during this period, a family ketch, the “Florrie”, was sunk in a storm off Land’s End with the loss of all hands, who all came from several generations of Chidgeys, and thus effectively brought to an end my family’s engagement in merchant shipping.
That brings me to my third reason for speaking in the Second Reading of this Bill. Alerted by the various depositions from organisations affected by the Bill, I took the time to study what proved to be an excellent briefing pack provided by the House of Lords Library. As noble Lords will know, this is not a new Bill. It started under a previous Administration and has been recycled as a Private Member’s Bill. There is nothing wrong with that. However, reading through the briefing pack, I found that issues being raised now in your Lordships’ House seem to have been raised previously and, to a degree, debated in another place in a previous Parliament. Therefore, I take it that the outcomes then, which involved tweaking of elements of the Bill, particularly Clauses 2 and 5, as the noble Baroness has mentioned, have not entirely laid to rest the concerns expressed. Therefore, I welcome the opportunity to debate this further in this House.
I refer specifically to concerns regarding pilot exemption certificates being awarded to crew members other than masters or first officers, who are, of course, also known as mates. For example, Alistair Singleton of the Liverpool Pilotage Service Ltd, by his own reckoning an authorised pilot with 36 years’ experience in the shipping industry, has written to me about his concerns. He tells me that the proposed amendments to the Pilotage Act 1987 give him a great deal of concern, pointing out that pilotage in the UK is, first, a public service whose development over time should be carefully weighed before making changes. Mr Singleton says that,
“it demands that the highest standards are maintained for the protection of the environment and the safety of life at sea. Their relaxation for profit is not appropriate”.
I cannot help thinking that that is a sentiment with which my ancestor George Chidgey, master mariner and latterly landlord of the London Inn and founder of the Watchet United Sailors Benefit Society, could do nothing but agree.
Noble Lords may well have received a four-page letter from Captain Cockrill, chairman of the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association. In it, he comments on the proposal to deregulate pilotage exemption certificates and, in a covering letter together with a six-page analysis of the impact assessment in the Bill, he argues that Clause 2 should be deleted in its entirety. I noted that, in evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Captain Cockrill was particularly concerned over this issue and by the fact that, as he claimed, no risk assessment statement had been provided.
Furthermore, I have heard from Mr Tim Nuttall, another Liverpool pilot, who has called into question the belief that competent harbour authorities would not issue pilot exemption certificates to unqualified individuals thus compromising safety of navigation. He cites his experience of a case at the port on the Humber, where the services of well over 100 experienced pilots were dispensed with to be replaced with unqualified, inexperienced mariners from around the globe—this is a serious claim. The outcome was claimed to be a litany of serious accidents, collisions, groundings and near misses, keeping the marine accident investigators extremely busy for a decade—something that I am sure can be checked.
Finally, I have received a letter from Gus Lewis, head of legal and government affairs for the Royal Yachting Association. This association is the national body for a whole range of recreational and competitive boating. Its headquarters are in Hamble and were opened by the Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal while I was the constituency MP. In due course, I took as my life peerage territorial title the Saxon village of Hamble-le-Rice. I therefore take more seriously than some the issues that it has raised with me, in particular its concerns that Clause 5, on harbour directions, would effectively grant lawmaking powers to harbour authorities, as it argued in its briefing paper.
While there may inevitably be an element of self-interest in the representations made, safety at sea leaves little margin for error. As my ancestors established, effective organisation and legislation are essential to establishing and maintaining the highest standards in seafaring. They are principles that we must not lose sight of.
My Lords, I feel that I should begin by declaring an interest, but I may go on declaring it too long and bore your Lordships. I speak in my capacity as secretary and treasurer of the House of Lords Yacht Club and do so rather nervously, as I have the vice-commodore on my left and the commodore who is about to speak after me.
I have a belief that sea is in the blood. I have the same problem as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, pointed out in relation to his family: I am the Scottish Mitchell-Thomson McEacharn—the Ben line, the McEacharn line, the Scottish line. We could not earn very much money, so we sailed the world. We set ourselves up in Australia; we were the first harbourmasters in Otago in New Zealand and, for ever and a day, we have a family rule that we must die at sea and have our latitude and longitude on our lair or on our tombstone. Even if we do not, and if I were to pass away today here, the rule would be that, on my lair in Scotland, the latitude and longitude of this particular Bench would be there.
I have an interest, obviously, because of my sea background. I think that I began in the boating world at the age of five, punting a rather ropey punt on my grandfather’s lake and being reminded that it was his father who in the First World War, and not being able to continue in the Army, had pressed into service his yacht “Venetia”, which was then fitted with depth charges and was off Harwich to patrol for submarines. However, it was unable sail to fast enough, so that, when the first trial took place, the stern blew off and the vessel was in port for the rest of the day. He received a remarkable letter from the Admiralty, that is still in my family, thanking him for his glorious service during the war and making him a commander in the RNVR, in which capacity he had himself painted. Provided with this certificate was a note stating that he had received 100 guineas by way of a prize or a reward. This was framed in the downstairs loo, as we would call it, and put on the wall with a note from him stating that, when he was on his seat, he would forever remember the historic meanness of the Admiralty.
We know that the public sector is inevitably mean and inevitably short of money, but we do need the private individuals. I pay great tribute to my noble friend who has introduced this Bill for what she has managed to do down in Cornwall. It is quite remarkable in that area how she has single-handedly almost transformed people’s attitude to the whole of the inlet business. We have a coastline in the United Kingdom that is as long as India. It is full of ins and outs, which to some extent means shellfish. When you go down there and visit the lobster factories, as I call them, where she has persuaded fishermen to take lobster eggs and grow lobsters that are then exported, you realise the importance of it.
Inlets and outlets—maybe they are called havens or harbours—are areas that need development and exploitation. I shall speak today principally on the role of the private sector. After punting across a lake, I then ended up trying to get a Seagull outboard motor with a small aluminium exhaust to go down the depths of the Arran. Over time, we ended up with small boats where we all trained at young age. My son first drove a Dellquay Dory at the age of three, sitting on your knees so that you could have health and safety. Over the years, as I had sailing boat—all, I have to say, on borrowed money—I would ask families where they had only children, and parents were worried that they might lose their children during the holidays if they had only one, if they would like me to take them. We would have gangs, and we would deal in adventures. We had to go across to France of course to invade France, but, on the way back, in order to be sure that my navigation was okay, we would ring lighthouse keepers. At a young age, they ring Niton Radio. My son would ring Niton Radio and they would say, “Hello, Callum, how are you? Is it going all right?”. You somehow felt secure if you had been in touch with a lighthouse keeper. If you were going past Portland Bill and wanted to take the inner route, and you were nervous about the tides, you would ring the lighthouse keeper. I always really wanted to be a lighthouse keeper or possibly to have my own lighthouse.
It is against this background that I have this deep affection for the sea, but also, I would like to return to the leisure sector. One day, I received a letter asking whether I would like to accept the appointment to be chairman of the Greater London and South East Council for Sport and Recreation, responsible for planning and development of sport and recreation in Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, so help me God. I think that they wanted a Lord, and I did not know that we had a committee of 300, which included the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Royal Parks. But that did not matter; the idea was to try to get people to go out and play games and play sport. This became something of a passion: how could you make something possible? Among the areas that we looked at were inland waterways, the whole of the Thames and the whole of Docklands, trying to encourage shallow-water diving. At Greenwich, there was an old Henry VIII graving dock which the council was going to fill in and get rid of. We managed to find the enthusiastic diving brigade which said that this would be a perfect place for training divers, and the other lot said that it would be a perfect place for training canoeists, so we had the divers diving at night. And then the local people wanted to fish, so we stocked it with fish as well. There were also little holes in the ground where you would put in a pole and an umbrella, and we brought things to life.
It was then that I realised that we were responsible. In Greater London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, you had all the water areas, the inner lakes and others—what could you do with them? Over time, in my boat or boats, I have visited every single haven, harbour and creek right the way down to the end of Cornwall. There are moments of great excitement when you decide, “Let’s go into the Beaulieu River at night for the first time”. When you wake up in the morning, when everyone else and all the young ones are asleep, and you see a stag swim across that river in front of you, that is emotion. What I am trying to point out is that this private sector is absolutely critical to the whole of the maritime world. It is also a considerable nuisance. The sorts of things that we would encourage people to do would be to look at the history of windsurfing, which was meant to have started in Hayling Island with someone with a broomstick on a door. Before you knew it, once it was mentioned, a whole lot of the young were out there on doors, causing absolute havoc with the tide going the wrong way.
Looking at these inland creeks and waterways, there is this need to make sure that the private sector—if that is what it is called—co-operates fully and is fully trained on all aspects of navigation. One exercise we would do sometimes was to take a small Dory and go from somewhere such as Birdham in Chichester harbour through the little cut into Portsmouth harbour to review the fleet. You would arrange for one of the ships there to stand up and wave. It was creating the activity on the water that caused an enormous amount of fun.
I am trying to point out that if we are to be involved in this area, we have to bring together the private and public sectors and the training of individuals. A bunch of children who have capsized in the way of a tanker coming into a harbour can cause a lot of chaos. However, if you explain to people at a young age what the rules and regulations are during their training for sailing or for driving motorboats, you can get a long way. I speak here today on behalf of the private sector but, more importantly, for the young. Once you have got their enthusiasm the sea is in the blood for life, as it is with me.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to participate in this debate. I first declare my interest as president of the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots’ Association; I am also a harbour commissioner in the port of Fowey in Cornwall. This seems to be something of a Cornish Bill because the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, comes from Cornwall—as does Sheryll Murray MP, who introduced this Bill into the Commons. It is rather nice to think that this Bill, which I am sure will pass, will be a Cornish-originated Bill. Perhaps the rest of the country has something to learn from this; anyway it is good.
As has been said, the draft Bill was published by the previous Government and I made one or two attempts to take it forward in various marine navigation Bills, so of course I generally welcome this Bill. However, when I did my Bill I was required to seek the consent of the Prince of Wales, so I consulted the clerks here as to whether that was needed for this Bill and if not, why not. Helpfully, the counsel to the Cabinet Office has published two versions of a 50-page manual on when, how and whether you need the consent of the Queen or the Prince of Wales to any Bill.
I think some of it is redacted but the key thing is that this Bill does not apparently need the consent of the Prince of Wales—even though he is the harbourmaster of St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly—because, as the clerk said,
“there is no requirement in the Bill that any harbour authority exercises”,
the duties put on it in this Bill. The clerk then said that,
“the text at line 34 on page 3”,
of this document,
“says a ‘harbour authority may give directions’”.
If the harbour authority was required to give directions, the Prince would have to give his consent but as the word is only “may”, he does not. That is all right then; we can carry on with the Bill. I hope that I have all the quotes right, as it is quite a complicated document.
Looking at the principle of this Bill and of other government legislation in the maritime sector, it has generally been based over the years on light regulation and on the assumption that all parties behave in a sensible and professional manner. The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, emphasised how important it was to carry on with this so as to encourage as many people to use the water as possible, without getting in the way of others. The problem here is that the pressures on ship owners and crews to save money are nowadays immense: hence tiredness, cutting corners and, often, language problems. Most of the time, it is all right and nothing happens. There are sometimes small incidents and occasionally, sadly, some things one might term disasters, be they oil spills, cruise liners hitting rocks or whatever. We can all say that it will never happen again but, sadly, it occasionally does. In considering this Bill, we should make it proof against one or more parties acting stupidly, dangerously or whatever because the consequences could be catastrophic. I hope that they do not happen very often.
I take as support in this a quote from the Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty insurance company. Earlier this month, in releasing its annual report on ship losses, it said,
“it reveals the main reason for incidents seem to be human error”.
It emphasises that,
“self regulation initiatives and technological improvements such as the introduction of … ECDIS in July”,
“to reduce accidents, but only if coupled with effective training and management oversight”.
That is an important issue, which I want to speak about when it comes to the pilotage exemption certificates in Clause 2.
There has been much previous debate about Clause 2 over the years in the Commons: about whether it should be there at all and, if so, whether the amendments in this Bill, which add “deck officer” to,
“the master or first mate”,
should be there. The Government say that this is a deregulation benefit but it is really not very clear to whom the benefit applies and by how much. When the noble Baroness winds up, perhaps she can help to quantify this because from the mass of evidence that I have received—the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, referred to having received a lot of this too—I know that the current PEC requirements under the 1987 Act have been developed and are of long standing over centuries.
I was very interested to hear of the pilotage arrangements for Watchet because I was there a couple of years ago and, with that rise and fall, it is some harbour. There is an old pilot boat in the museum there, which I think has been recreated. It shows how dangerous it was and what the importance of local knowledge was there.
I am not sure where the pressure for this change is coming from. The Chamber of Shipping seems to have confirmed my view that it is coming from a very small sector of the shipping industry; basically, a dredging company in the Thames. There, you have three people on the dredger: the master, the first mate and a third person, who is perhaps the deck officer. Because of the working time directive requirements, the master likes to dump the aggregate on the quay while the first mate likes to do the dredging, so somebody has to drive the ship in between and it obviously has to be the deck officer. We can debate whether such a person has the right training or experience. We will need to debate further whether it is appropriate for such a definition to be applied to bigger shipping. I have seen no substantive argument from the Chamber of Shipping or others to support the claims that this change needs to take place.
There are two key issues here. One is that if the phrase “deck officer” is to be applied properly, it has to have a proper definition of how they are trained and what qualifications they have. I suggest there is also an issue as to what managerial responsibility they have in relation to the master. It is fine to say that he might be the navigation officer. However, if he is also employed and the boss, two levels up, is the master it might be a brave person who overruled that master. While it is not overruling, because the master is in charge, it is a different relationship from just providing the navigation information. There is a lot more work to be done on this, and I hope that we can discuss this more with the noble Baroness between now and Committee.
I shall quote one or two comments about this. The first is from David Phillips, chief harbourmaster of the PLA, who says that,
“pilotage is possibly the most important risk control measure that ports have … It is important to understand that the act of pilotage is a command function. To exercise command at sea requires a measure of experience that will come from sea experience”.
The UK Harbour Masters’ Association wrote to Sheryll Murray on 26 November, saying,
“It is essential that the role of pilot is, in the interests of marine safety, restricted to only the most experienced navigation officers signed on the vessel’s articles or other official document of engagement”.
I met my noble friend Lord West outside. He apologised that he could not be in this debate but allowed me to quote him as saying that he thought that this change in the definition of who could have a PEC was actually dangerous.
The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, quoted from the House of Commons evidence. Its Transport Select Committee report of 2008 into the Draft Marine Navigation Bill said:
“We are extremely concerned at the proposal in Clause 4 to amend the provision for pilotage to extend the scope of who can hold a PEC. The proposed change would impose additional burdens on competent harbour authorities and make it harder to ensure that only appropriately qualified staff carried out pilotage. This could create unnecessary dangers”.
The only safe way is to remove Clause 2, but I look forward to discussing this with the noble Baroness between now and Committee. I hope that we can reach agreement before then without causing too much delay to the Bill, because I want it to go through.
I turn to Clause 5 and the power of general direction. It is an important part of a CHA’s role, and the current process is very long-winded. This is an important clause, giving harbours the powers to do this more quickly. I have been involved in debates with the ports and the shipping and leisure industries. Most of the time they have to work together, but I suggest that the Bill has to make provision for when they do not. We have all had examples of where this has gone wrong; noble Lords will have seen an interesting video clip 18 months ago of a racing yacht in the Solent going across the bows of a tanker, with the spinnaker getting caught in the racing yacht’s anchor. The mast came down but luckily no one was hurt. What surprised me was that the entire crew were serving naval officers. If the Navy can get it wrong, one or two other people can probably get it wrong as well.
I am not having a bash at the Navy, because there are equal stories on the other side. I heard yesterday from the Royal Yachting Association that, after the ports had said, “We’ll work together. It’ll all be all right. We’ll be very friendly. We’ll consult. The leisure industry needn’t worry. It’ll be all right on the night”, the port of Dundee, which already has the powers, is requiring users of recreational craft, presumably including dinghies, to submit passage plans to the Forth and Tay Navigation Service in advance of putting their boats in the water or going to sea. That goes beyond what is necessary, desirable or even appropriate. If that kind of thing can happen without consultation and listening to those whom they have consulted, it confirms that there is a need for something better than what is currently in the Bill.
I generally support Clause 9, regarding the general lighthouse authorities. It is good for the GLAs to be able to invest and go into commercial business, but I hope that it will bring benefits to the shipping lines and those who pay the light dues. Hopefully, it will improve the efficiency of the whole thing.
With those few words, I wish the Bill well. I hope that we can get it to Royal Assent without too many delays.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We have crossed swords many times on these matters. I am delighted, in declaring an interest as an older brother of Trinity House, to hear him say something complimentary about the lighthouse authorities. He is normally on the opposite tack.
One of the delights of marine Bills—which, let us face it, do not come up very often—is that we go off on different tacks in all sorts of different directions, and we have some very interesting history lessons from various noble Lords. I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey said, because I live just over the hill from Watchet and I know it well. It is probably not realised that Watchet was a commercial port until just a few years ago. There was a local shipping line called the Willie line—I hasten to say that it was spelt with an “ie”—that regularly ran a large vessel in and out of Watchet. You never know what is going to come out of the woodwork in these debates. Accordingly, my noble friend Lord Selsdon always entertains us in a most delightful way.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, for introducing the Bill, which, as she and others have said, relates to matters that have been sculling around for some considerable time. This gives us an opportunity at least to put these various measures on the statute book.
I will not say much about the general lighthouse authority provisions because they have been exceedingly well covered by the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein. Needless to say, they are very much welcomed. I think that the original right of the general lighthouse authorities to use vessels for commercial purposes, when time allowed and they were not required for their statutory purposes, goes back to when the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, was Shipping Minister in this House. I was in a meeting with him and he suddenly came up with this out of the blue, which delighted me and indeed the general lighthouse authorities. That was in 1997, so the GLAs have been able to do that for some time. This extends that right and allows them to act as consultants and to use various moneys out of the General Lighthouse Fund, if required, if they need to buy some specific equipment that is going to assist their ships being hired out to someone else. As I understand it, the proviso is that there still has to be a profit for the General Lighthouse Fund in the longer term. That will certainly please the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, because I am sure that he will greatly welcome anything that will lessen the burden of ship owners.
With regard to the wreck-marking side, even this week one of the Trinity House ships had to steam at high speed down the Channel to Torbay, where a Greek tug was towing a dead ship to Turkey for demolition. The tow overtook the tug and holed her, and she was leaking oil. Eventually the larger ship sank so Trinity House had to go and mark that wreck, which it has now done with four buoys just off Torbay.
The Bill is welcomed by a wide range of people, including the British Ports Association, the UK Major Ports Group and the UK Chamber of Shipping. The two bones of contention, if I may refer to them as such, concern yachtsmen’s fears about the new harbour directions and pilots’ fears about extending the licensing of pilotage exemption certificates. I have spoken on behalf the Royal Yachting Association and the British Marine Federation in this House over many years. Consultations with the yachting fraternity have been going on widely since the Bill started in the Commons. As we have heard, there is a new code of conduct on harbour directions, which I understand will be more or less completed next week. This will be overseen by a national directions panel which is made up of representatives from the two major ports organisations, the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Royal Yachting Association and various fishery organisations. It is expected to meet at least once a year—or more if necessary—and to oversee this whole business of harbour directions, which are a great step forward from the old, expensive and time-consuming process of harbour revision orders.
Pilots play a vital part in marine safety. They are rightly proud of their profession. I can remember deliberations here on the Pilotage Act 1987, which I think was one of the first occasions when the Moses Room was used for Grand Committee. That removed pilotage from the pilotage associations, one of which was Trinity House, which was responsible for some 40% of pilotage in the country. Since then, it has been a bit of a curate’s egg: good in parts, some not so good. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, about the sacking of all the Humber pilots. My understanding was that the pilots, who completely ran their own show, were demanding too much money which was making is commercially difficult for the port authority to operate. Pilots are not infallible. I have only to remind the House of the “Sea Empress” incident off Milford Haven, where the initial cause of the accident was pilot error, which led to the grounding.
Pilots have to move with the times, as do we all. Today, shipping is very different from what it was 15 or 20 years ago. Some ships—for instance, ferries—now have three crews. They are used 24 hours a day. It is not like the old situation where a ship had a master and a first mate, and they stayed there, often for some considerable time. Regrettably, I am afraid that manning standards have also been a huge cause of concern. Ships are operating with fewer and fewer people. This means that those officers who have pilotage exemption certificates may have been on watch for God knows how many hours, and they have, statutorily, to take rest from time to time, so somebody else may be required when the ship is coming into harbour.
When this first arose, there was a lot of hoo-hah and stories that cooks could put themselves forward to get pilotage exemption. Of course, that could never happen. It is up to the ports to issue these certificates There is absolutely no way that a port is going to issue an exemption certificate to someone who is not properly qualified. I remind your Lordships that it has been common practice in the Merchant Navy for years for younger officers to be overqualified for the actual job they are doing on a ship. On some ships, you may have a third officer who actually has a master’s—or certainly a mate’s—ticket. They are also operating on ships which come in and out of harbour regularly, so they know the waters of the harbour. The pilots’ fear is perhaps slightly overstated on this. It will not result in fewer jobs for pilots. They should be far more concerned over something that is coming up in 2015 when, under new EU regulations, the sulphur limits allowed in fuel will be reduced even further, to the point where, fuel being as expensive as it is—around 30% of the overall costs of a ship’s operation—it will be impossible for them to remain in business. There may therefore be fewer ships around, especially on these regular routes and particularly those going up into the Baltic.
Concerns have been raised and that is absolutely right. They have been discussed and looked at, and some concessions have been made. However, I detect from most corners of the House—perhaps not the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—that this is a welcome Bill. It should be given a fair wind.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Wilcox on introducing this important Bill. The great advantage of being tail-end Charlie is that you can tear up the speech that you were going to make because so many points have been made. I was particularly pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, talking about the lighthouses, an area of interest to me. I agree with him that it is crazy that we have not been specific about where the lighthouse authorities can operate. He will know that we have Whale Rock, on which the Northern Lighthouse Board currently has to put two buoys. Trinity House has many more examples. For the lighthouse authority not to have had that certainty needed to be addressed a long time ago. I am glad to see it in the Bill.
I, too, support the enabling of the lighthouse authorities to undertake certain commercial activities within defined limits; that will certainly help. Of course, the marking of wrecks needs attention and is now well covered in Bill. The second half of the Bill needs to be welcomed, and has been.
More controversial are Clauses 1 to 4 about pilotage, particularly Clause 2. I declare my interest, such as it is, as having twice been Minister of Shipping. I was, I suppose, part of the gestation process of the Pilotage Act 1987 when I was Minister for Shipping in 1986; my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara gave birth to that Act, because I had moved on to the Home Office by that stage. I remember full well the long discussions with the pilots’ association. They have done and continue to do a very good job. Of course, the nature of pilotage has changed, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, says. I cannot remember it, but certainly my ancestors could remember that if you had a good easterly gale in the Pentland Firth, you took on a pilot and you did not see him again; he wound up in America. Times have moved on a little since then.
The pilots were one of the most “conservative with a small c” bodies that I had come across, and were reluctant to change. I recall being told in 1986 that if we introduced the Pilotage Act there would be many more accidents at sea and at entrances to the harbour. That has not happened. I can understand the pilots’ concern, but it was misplaced. I also think that it is misplaced on this occasion. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, has just said, there are good controls which the competent harbour authority must ensure. My honourable friend, during consideration in Committee of an amendment to the Bill in another place, described the definition of deck officer as:
“‘an officer in charge of the above-deck workings and manoeuvres at sea of a ship or boat’””.—[Official Report, Commons, 30/11/12; col. 539.]
That makes it fairly clear that this is a responsible person for consideration of an exemption certificate.
The useful Explanatory Notes state that,
“the relevant competent harbour authority is satisfied that that person has the skill, experience and local knowledge, and sufficient knowledge of English for safety purposes”—
that is important in Scotland where more people speak Gaelic—
“to be capable of piloting one or more specified ships within its harbour”.
That is pretty straight. I am therefore inclined to support my noble friend Lady Wilcox on this; the Bill has got it right on this occasion. I would hate there to be any reduction in safety at sea. I was the Minister in charge when the “Braer”, not the “Sea Empress”, went down. That was not a matter of pilotage. We all know what happened, and I will not comment further, but it is no joy at all for there to be any shipping accident whatever in our waters, or any other waters. Nevertheless, I still support the Bill as it stands.
That takes me on to my old sparring partner, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I am less sanguine than is the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, about the noble Lord, who was very nice about the GLAs, for a change—which slightly surprised me—but I wonder whether, given what he said, he really wants to get rid of Clause 2. He knows full well that the Bill will not reach the statute book if that clause is removed. I listened earlier to the noble Lord; he was waxing eloquently on the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill and said, “This Bill must not be amended because it will not reach the statute book”. Now he is happy to say, “Let’s take Clause 2 out of this Bill and it will sail through the House of Commons”. I am much more cynical about the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I would not be at all surprised if, deeply underlying that, was the intention that if we get rid of Clause 2, we will not have Clauses 8 and 9 relating to the lighthouse authorities.
Overall, I support the Bill unamended and wish it a fair wind.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on her involvement in taking the Bill through your Lordships’ House. It addresses a range of specific issues and contains a number of the provisions of the 2008 draft Marine Navigation Bill of the then Labour Government, many of which were introduced into your Lordships’ House by my noble friend Lord Berkeley. For that reason, we indicated support for the Bill in the Commons and for its passage, following discussions, to your Lordships’ House.
The Bill contains provisions relating to: the power to remove harbour authorities’ pilotage functions; the granting of pilotage exemption certificates; the circumstances in which a harbour authority can suspend or revoke a pilotage exemption certificate; the offence by the master of a ship of not giving a pilotage notification; the giving of harbour directions to ships within, entering or leaving the harbour of a designated harbour authority; the power to make a closure order so that a harbour authority can and will stop maintaining its harbour; the extension of the geographic jurisdiction for the current six ports police forces in England; issues relating to the area in which each general lighthouse authority may operate and the carrying out of commercial activities by general lighthouse authorities; the arrangements for the marking of wrecks; and the drafting of regulations relating of standards to be met by seafarers.
There are two specific aspects of the Bill to which I shall refer. The first is Clause 5, which deals with the designation of harbour authorities that can give directions to ships, which effectively means craft of any size, relating to their movements, their mooring or unmooring, their equipment and their manning within that harbour authority area. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the Minister will know, concerns have been expressed that the power to give directions may not always be used in a proportionate or reasonable manner in relation to small craft in particular. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness and the Minister—if the Government are supporting the Bill—indicated what safeguards will be place to minimise the likelihood of this happening and, if it happens, what procedures will be in place to enable decisions by a harbour authority to be challenged, other than by pursuing the matter with the harbour authority that has made that decision.
My second point concerns the issue that has been mentioned on a number of occasions, the change in respect of pilot exemption certificates. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the Minister will be more than aware of the concerns raised by the UK Maritime Pilots’ Association, which clearly fears that the changes proposed have rather more to do with cutting costs than they do with anything else, and are concerned about the safety implications. The Bill amends the Pilotage Act 1987 so that any bona fide deck officer, which includes the master or first mate of a ship, may hold a pilotage exemption certificate, provided that the harbour authority is satisfied that they are capable of piloting one or more specified ships within its harbour. Currently, only the master or first mate of a ship can hold such a certificate.
Perhaps noble Baroness can define what is meant by the term “deck officer”, and say how junior an officer can be to be a deck officer if it is envisaged that, when carrying out their pilotage role, they could challenge the decision by the master of the ship. Again, it would be helpful if the noble Baroness and, indeed, the Minister, if the Government are supporting the Bill, can say: from what source pressure for this change is coming; what the difficulty is with the present arrangements that is so significant that it can be overcome only through the proposed wording in the Bill—not through any mean not involving legislation; over what period of time, how frequently or consistently, and in what circumstances, the difficulty has arisen; whether the change proposed in the Bill will be to the financial advantage of any groups of individuals, organisations or companies; and, likewise, whether the change set out in the Bill on pilotage exemption certificates will be to the financial disadvantage of any groups of individuals, organisations or companies. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, could also say what the assessment is, in view of the concerns that have been raised, of the impact that the proposed changes in granting pilotage exemption certificates will have on the current number of authorised maritime pilots. Is the assessment that it will lead to an increase, a decrease or no change as far as their numbers are concerned?
The proposed change in the Bill on pilotage exemption certificates could potentially result in a number of deck officers on a ship having a pilotage exemption certificate for a specific harbour. An increase in the number of deck officers on a ship with the certificate presumably means—but I may be corrected on this—that some or all of the deck officers are going to be piloting the ship within the harbour less frequently than would be the case under the current arrangements, where it is only the master or the first mate of a ship who holds the pilotage exemption certificate. Is there or will there be any requirement that the holder of a pilotage exemption certificate has to undertake the piloting of the specified ship within the harbour concerned a certain minimum number of times over a laid-down period? If that is not the case—and perhaps it is the case—will the harbour authority be able to satisfy itself that no deck officers with a pilotage exemption certificate for a specific ship, in respect of that harbour, will have lost the skill, experience and local knowledge required through lack of undertaking the pilotage responsibility?
Furthermore, will the harbour authority be able to put a limit on the number of bona fide deck officers who can hold a pilotage exemption certificate for their harbour in respect of a specific ship, or will it have to grant one unless it can show that at the time the certificate was sought, the individual did not have the skill, experience and local knowledge required? I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, or the Minister, will be able to respond to the points I have raised either today or within a short period of time—certainly before the next stage in the passage of this Bill through your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Wilcox for her concise and cogent introduction to her Bill; the House would expect nothing less. I also thank all noble Lords who have taken part in its Second Reading today. The Bill covers a variety of issues affecting maritime activity, but all are focused on giving responsible organisations greater freedom to act to maintain and enhance safe and efficient operations.
I recognise that some noble Lords have concerns about the potential impact of one or two clauses in the Bill. It is right that we should give careful consideration to those concerns. My noble friend Lord Selsdon made one of his usual fascinating speeches; they are not to be missed and are essential reading and viewing.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked why the Prince of Wales’s consent was not required for this Bill. The House authorities confirmed to parliamentary counsel that the Prince of Wales’s consent was not required for this Bill, so it was not sought. The Prince’s consent was required for the previous Bill because it made provision about lighthouse authorities and therefore directly affected the Duchy as the local lighthouse authority for the Isles of Scilly. That provision is not part of this Bill. As the noble Lord acknowledged, the Bill does not impose measures on harbour or local lighthouse authorities; it enables them to seek changes to their powers if they choose.
Pilotage is a profession that emerged in the earliest days of maritime trade, in recognition of the need to provide valuable ships and their cargo with safe passage into harbours or through dangerous waters. The Rolls of Oleron—a code of sea laws first promulgated by Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th Century and introduced in England during the reign of King Richard I—exacted severe penalties on any pilot who lost a ship in his care. He was to be beheaded. Whether this draconian punishment served to improve standards of pilotage, I could not possibly say. I can say, however, that it forms no part of our current pilotage legislation—the Pilotage Act 1987. Although this may be an extreme example of an earlier legal provision now deemed redundant, it is reflective of the tides of change and the need to modernise legislation on occasion. This Bill contains such modernising legislation.
The 1987 Act gave the function of managing pilotage services to individual Competent Harbour Authorities, which are best placed to understand the potential dangers to shipping in their own waters. This Bill would give the CHA greater control over Pilotage Exemption Certificates, the PEC mechanism. My noble friend Lord Caithness talked about some of the worries that people had when he introduced that legislation.
My noble friend Lady Wilcox eloquently explained the purpose of PECs and I only wish to add that we in the Government consider that PECs are a proven, sensible and safe mechanism that forms an important element of pilotage provision in the waters of a CHA. Nothing in this Bill reduces the standards by which a PEC applicant is to be assessed. It concerns only eligibility.
The evidence from the Chamber of Shipping is that this measure could provide great encouragement to ambitious deck officers in the UK ferry industry. Opening up the path of progression, subject to careful examination, rewards both dedication and hard work and helps the ferry industry to prepare the next generation of senior officers.
The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, suggested potential pilotage problems on the Humber. In making his argument against Clause 2, I did not recall him explaining why the CHA would issue a PEC to an incompetent person. As I said before, the clause concerns only eligibility. Further it is not clear to me why an officer can be first mate on one ship and have a PEC for a particular ship and harbour but if, for some reason, he becomes second mate on a similar ship, plying to the same harbour, he cannot have a PEC. The law, as it stands, also means that you can have only two PEC holders on any ship.
The noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Greenway, touched on the problem of the shipping industry being under intense commercial pressure and we know they are quite right. Like the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, does not explain why Clause 2 in my noble friend’s Bill requires a CHA to lower the standards of pilots. The clause concerns only eligibility. The noble Lord also questioned whether a second mate on a dredger would have the necessary qualifications. The answer is that the CHA will not grant a PEC if the officer is not competent of piloting that ship in that harbour.
My noble friend Lord Caithness talked about the definition of a deck officer. Many years ago I came across the term “deck officer” and I have no difficulty at all in understanding what we mean by it. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Wilcox will take comfort from the support of my noble friend who, as he pointed out, is a former shipping Minister with considerable experience. My noble friend teased the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on the effect of the passage of the Bill if we did not include Clause 2. I thought I heard the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, say that he hoped that the Bill will indeed pass.
I turn to harbour directions. Since 2000, the Department for Transport has encouraged harbour authorities to secure powers of general direction to support the effective management of vessels in their harbour waters. This recommendation has always been a prominent feature in the Port Marine Safety Code, the non-statutory guidance produced by the department and Maritime and Coastguard Agency in association with representatives from the ports industry, trades unions, and other maritime experts. Given that ports have long been advised to seek this power in order to manage risk effectively, it is very welcome that this Bill seeks to provide a straightforward mechanism to do so.
The Royal Yachting Association has been doing sterling work with the ports associations and the Chamber of Shipping to develop non-statutory safeguards. A code of conduct on harbour directions is envisaged and a draft version is already well advanced. At their most recent meeting on Monday 14 January, discussion focused on a few drafting tweaks that are still required and I expect it will be possible to report further progress at Committee stage. This is a perfect illustration of how the mature maritime sector can be trusted to get on with the job without requiring government interference.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about problems of the Port of Dundee applying directions to recreational users on passage plans. The Port of Dundee confirms that it is its intention that this direction will apply to work boats and not to recreational users. Full consultation took place and changes to directions were made where necessary.
The General Lighthouse Authorities—the GLAs—are three distinguished organisations with proud histories of serving all those who navigate around these islands. The safety of mariners is their raison d’être and this goes beyond their statutory duty of providing aids to navigation. Just last autumn, a Northern Lighthouse Board ship passing St Andrews spotted red flares sent up from a fishing vessel taking on water. The incident ended happily, thanks to the alertness and presence of mind shown by the GLA crew.
The three clauses relating to the GLAs would confirm operational practices of benefit to the modern mariner and allow the GLAs to undertake additional commercial work. In doing so, it would enable the generation of additional income to pay for the GLAs’ essential role in providing marine aids to navigation around Great Britain and Ireland. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein for giving us a more detailed insight into this activity.
I am always grateful to have the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, on my side, but we are fortunate to have several experts available in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord pointed out that GLAs’ commercial operations have to show a profit. I also point out that the Department for Transport improves significant contracts so matters cannot get out of control with large loss-making contracts undercutting commercial operations. That simply would not happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the potential for PEC holders on a ferry, perhaps, losing experience because there were several PEC holders on the given ship. My understanding is that the PEC holders are reassessed by the competent harbour authority every 12 months. If they started to get rusty, they would experience difficulties in renewing their PEC.
I trust that I have provided some reassurance to noble Lords that the Bill would protect and enhance marine safety and that there are real safeguards to ensure that the powers of harbour direction are used appropriately. I join my noble friend Lady Wilcox in commending it to the House.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate today which, as is so often the case in your Lordships’ House, has given us the benefit of much experience, from shipping Ministers to lyrical speakers and sailors in smaller boats.
I thank all noble Lords, of course, and especially my noble friend the Minister who has stated the Government’s position clearly and has responded to the principal issues raised in the debate. I shall not repeat all the answers that he has so succinctly given, but I will of course answer every question that has been asked between now and Committee. I am happy to discuss them with everybody who wishes to get themselves in order before we reach to the next stage so that the Bill can go straight through.
My noble friend referred to the considerable maritime experience in the House and I echo his thoughts on that. We have the noble Lords, Lord MacKenzie and Lord Greenway, from the GLA, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, the former Minister for shopping—
Shipping! That was a Freudian slip: the noble Earl is always buying boats. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, strongly outlined the view of the United Kingdom Maritime Pilots’ Association, as I would expect him to do as the president. He felt that the availability of pilotage exemption certificates to deck officers would be too great a step. I understand the concern expressed out of a desire to ensure that the strong record of maritime safety in UK waters is maintained. I reassure the noble Lord and the UKMPA that that is close to my heart. It would be ridiculous to try to bring forward a Bill such as this without having “safety, safety, safety” written all over it because of the pilots’ wonderful record thus far.
I do not believe that Clause 2 would undermine safety because neither ports nor shipping companies will wish to see underqualified crew members holding and using pilotage exemption certificates given the potential cost that they would have to bear in the event of an accident. I do not believe that owners of ships are sitting somewhere else and not worrying about where their ships are but just wondering if they are making enough money. Enough people have been to sea and enough legislation put through both Houses over the years to show that we as a maritime nation have far too much care for our sailors to allow that to happen.
To assist people, the Guide to Good Practice that accompanies the Port Marine Safety Code can be used to promote the standards of competence that a suitable applicant for a pilotage exemption certificate would likely have to achieve. The guide can be refined easily and quickly in the light of experience and changes in certification standards, which makes it ideal for purpose.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon spoke from the heart about the rights of recreational mariners to indulge their passion for sailing without unreasonable restrictions being imposed on them by harbour authorities and lyrically emphasised how important it is to train our young people to love the sea and be part of our boating community, and to be safe and well taught. I will admit to having a family of very keen sailors. However, I also have sympathy for harbour authorities because they are charged with the serious business of managing risks to safe navigation in their waters, but may not have the right tools to do so. Recreational mariners as much as commercial shipping are done a real disservice when this is the case. My noble friend said that the Royal Yachting Association agrees that this is a shortcoming that needs to be rectified, and it is to the association’s credit and that of the British Ports Association that they are working together on a non-statutory code of conduct to ensure that the power of harbour directions is used in a sensitive way with the views of all port users being heard in the process of making and resolving disputes about harbour directions.
Notwithstanding these two issues, I am very pleased that there has been so much support for the Bill in this House. I believe that the time is right to move on, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.