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Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen good morning and welcome to Dublin. As Minister for Transport I am delighted to be here with you today and I am very pleased to be your host in Dublin for this the 43rd Session of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control. Ireland has been a member of the Paris MoU since its foundation in 1982 and we are delighted to be hosting this Committee meeting here in Dublin Castle again.
I am delighted to see so many Member Authorities and observer organisations here. It is a testament to the success of the Paris MoU over the years in eliminating sub-standard shipping.
Sea transport is important to all economies, no more so than for an island nation. This was reinforced during the recent volcanic ash crisis. Maritime transport once again demonstrated it strengths and was a major benefit in this country and elsewhere.
I am aware that this Committee has important work ahead of it in the coming days and areas where it will be important that conclusions are reached.
I know that you have been working for many years on the development of the New Inspection Regime for Port State Control. This is eagerly awaited by the shipping industry and it will reward quality shipping and focus on sub-standard shipping. This is a clear example of better regulation where we are reducing red tape and we are aligning the goal of maritime safety with facilitating trade. This is precisely the type of initative, which regulators should be pursuing. Good regulation should be proportionate and I commend the Paris MoU for its work in this area.
I know that you have been working on amendments to the text of the Memorandum itself and that this has involved long hours of work. I hope that this will pay off during the week ahead. I understand the importance of adopting these amendments this week, as they are necessary to ensure the implementation of the NIR for The 1st of January 2011.
I also understand that you will be working on substantial consequential amendments to your many technical guidelines and, again, I wish you success.
You will also be working on the developments of THETIS the new information system that will become operational from January the first next year. I am aware of the importance of accurate port call information to the success of THETIS and in Ireland we have implemented SafeSeasIreland as our single window for the provision of such information. I would very much like to acknowledge the work of the French Maritime Administration and SDSI for the contribution in maintaining and hosting the existing information system SIRENAC. It is important that we should thank you for this system and recognise the contribution it is has made.
The maritime world is facing major challenges across the globe over the coming years with new conventions entering into force. Foremost among these is the International Labour Organization's Maritime Labour Convention of 2006. I am informed that this Convention is achieving the necessary ratifications with a number of Paris MoU Member States having already ratifed the Convention and others working actively on it. In Ireland we consider this convention very important as our Port State Control Officers have been instrumental in protecting the living and working conditions of seafarers. Thankfully, such abuses are rare on ships visiting Ireland but unfortunately there are some cases. The new ILO MLC will strengthen our hand and provide a level playing field whilst improving the image of maritime careers for young people. This is especially important this year, which is the International Year of the Seafarer.
In Ireland I am committed to the implementation of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention and I have published a Bill, which will give a legal basis to our ratification and provide for enabling powers for the implementation of the Convention. This Bill is at an advanced stage in our parliamentary process and I am hopeful that it should be signed into law before the summer recess. I am pleased that you will be working on developing guidelines for port state control in this area and I welcome the delegation of the International Labour Organization including the social partners at this meeting.
I also welcome the impetus, which the Paris MoU has given to encouraging Members States to apply for and undergo an International Maritime Organization audit. This is a welcome support from the PMoU to the international community and shows how effective a regional organization can be. Ireland is committed to the IMO audit and we are due to undergo an audit in September of this year. We are busy with our preparations and looking forward to it.
I note the emphasis which the Paris MoU places on environmental protection and in your agenda there are important initiatives which you will adopt this week including consideration of guidelines for the MARPOL and Bunker. I encourage the Paris MoU in this area and I am pleased that you will be adopting guidelines and instructions in the area of environmental protection. This is important to all members of the Paris MoU and it is an area where the public place great emphasis.
The Paris MoU is very effective in its international relations and the co-operation with other regional MoUs is important and the growing family of MoUs is important to develop. I would like to extend a warm welcome to the delegate representing the Riyadh MoU, as I understand that this is the first Paris MoU committee meeting at which the Riyadh MoU is represented. I would like to congratulate the delegate of the Black Sea MoU on the tenth anniversary of the Black Sea MoU this year. I welcome the representative of the Tokyo MoU, Caribbean MoU and the US Coast Guard. I understand the importance of the MoUs working together and in co-operation we can improve PSC worldwide and share experiences.
The work of the Paris MoU is critically dependent on the efforts of its Member Authorities and the papers presented here today are the fruits of these efforts. I am impressed by the scope and depth of the subjects covered. I would like to thank all members of the taskforces and the taskforce leaders. I also know that the co-operation and work of the European Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency with the PMoU is an example of how organizations should work well together. We are also fortunate in having an excellent Secretariat, which continues to provide the Members with excellent service under the leadership of Mr Richard Schiferli.
Finally, I want to acknowledge publicly the work that the Chief Surveyor of the Irish Marine Survey Office, Brian Hogan, has done as Chairman of the Paris MoU. I would also like to thank the staff in the Marine Survey Office of my Department.- particularly Chris Smith, Pauline Donnelly, Linda Gavin and Cormac Lynch - for the work they have put into arranging this meeting and who will be able to provide assistance to you this week.
In conclusion I wish you success and I hope that in addition to working on your papers that you may take some time to enjoy your stay in Dublin.