HC Deb 30 April 1996 vol 276 c445W
Mr. Peter Robinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what factors underlay his decision not to require that passenger and freight ships operating in British waters should use English as a single designated working language. [26296]

Mr. Norris

Our legislation requires that crews on passenger ships on domestic services understand English or that there are adequate arrangements for transmitting orders in a language they understand. Further legislation is being considered, for all UK ships and all other passenger ships operating to or from the UK, requiring effective oral communication between all crew members and adequate means of communication, in the English language, between the ship and shore-based authorities. The ability of crew members to communicate effectively with each other is already monitored by the Marine Safety Agency.

Many ships which operate in UK waters do not call at UK ports, and international action is, therefore, also needed. The revised international convention on standards of training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers, which will be implemented by 1 February 1997, builds on existing international standards and requires every master, mate and officer in charge of watchkeeping on a vessel of 500 gross tonnes and over to have an adequate knowledge of the English language to communicate with other ships and with coast stations.