Sea Pollution Act 1991

Powers of Minister to prevent, mitigate or eliminate pollution.


26. (1) Subject to subsection (6), the Minister or any person authorised by him (an “authorised person”) may for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating danger from pollution or threat of pollution by oil, or by any substance other than oil as defined in subsection (10), following upon a maritime casualty or acts related to such a casualty, give such directions as seem to him to be appropriate to—

( a) the owner or master of the ship; or

( b) any person who is, or who reasonably appears to the Minister or authorised person to be, in charge of the ship; or

( c) any salvor who is in possession of the vessel and is in charge of a salvage operation; or

( d) such other person, to whom it may appear reasonable and necessary to the Minister or authorised person to give directions.

(2) The Minister or authorised person in the exercise of his power under this section, shall not unduly detain or delay a ship from proceeding on its voyage.

(3) Subject to subsection (6), if, in the opinion of the Minister, the powers conferred by subsection (1) are, or have proved to be, inadequate for the purpose, the Minister, or authorised person, may take such action and do such things in relation to the ship concerned or its stores, equipment or cargo as appear, having regard to all the circumstances, to be necessary and reasonable for the purpose of preventing, mitigating or eliminating the effects of pollution arising from a maritime casualty.

(4) Without prejudice to the generality of any powers conferred by this section any directions given, or action taken, under this section may include—

( a) the movement of a ship in, out of, or beyond, the limits of a harbour or to a specified place in such manner as may be specified;

( b) the restraint or control of a ship or its movements and the attendance on the ship of such tug-boats, salvage vessels, other craft or aircraft as may be specified;

( c) the boarding of the ship, for the purposes of assessing the damage thereto or the giving of advice or assistance in relation to the repairing of such damage;

( d) the unloading, discharge or transfer from a ship of any oil or oily mixture, whether carried on the ship in bulk as cargo or carried in the bunkers of the ship as fuel, and the unloading of the stores, equipment, cargo or any other substance on a ship;

( e) the specification of the type or class of vessel by which any such operation of unloading, discharging or transfer is to be carried out;

( f) the storage or other disposal of any oil, oily mixture, stores, equipment, cargo or any other substance unloaded, discharged or transferred from a ship;

( g) the taking, or the restriction on taking, of specified salvage measures in relation to a ship or any oil, oily mixture, stores, equipment, cargo or any other substance;

( h) the sinking, destruction or taking over of control of a F26 [ ship; ]

F27 [ ( i ) the establishment and maintenance of a temporary exclusion zone around a maritime casualty or an offshore unit, oil handling facility or hazardous and noxious substances handling facility. ]

(5) (a) The powers conferred by this section may be exercised if, but only if, the Minister or authorised person has reasonable grounds for believing that, following upon a maritime casualty or acts related to such a casualty, there is grave and imminent danger of major harmful consequences through pollution to the coastline or to related interests.

( b) In this subsection “ related interests” means the interests of the State and the health and well-being of its citizens and, without prejudice to the foregoing, includes—

(i) the health of the coastal population and the well-being of any area concerned;

(ii) marine resources, flora and fauna, and the habitats of such flora and fauna;

(iii) maritime coastal, port or estuarine activities, including fisheries activities, which constitute means of livelihood for persons concerned;

(iv) the tourist attractions of any area concerned.

(6) The Minister shall furnish an authorised person with a certificate of his authority and that person shall, if requested, produce the certificate for inspection.

(7) Any person who—

( a) wilfully contravenes, or fails to comply with, a direction under this section, or

( b) wilfully obstructs a person who is acting in compliance with such a direction,

shall be guilty of an offence.

(8) Every person who complies with a direction under this section shall take all possible means to avoid any risk to human life and, in a prosecution of a person for failure to comply with a direction under this section, it shall be a defence for the person to establish that he had reasonable grounds for believing that compliance with the direction would have involved a serious risk to human life.

(9) The owner of a ship shall be liable to pay to the Minister the expenses of or incidental to any action taken by the Minister or an authorised person in pursuance of this section and those expenses shall, without prejudice to any other remedy, be recoverable as salvage is recoverable.

(10) In this section—

oil” means crude oil, fuel oil, diesel oil and lubricating oil;

ship” does not include any installation or device engaged in the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the sea-bed and the ocean floor and the subsoil thereof;

substance other than oil”, referred to in subsection (1), means any substance in a list annexed to the Intervention Protocol and any other substance which is liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea F27 [ , and includes hazardous and noxious substances ].