HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 cc213-4W
Mr. Barry Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport in what circumstances and under what powers(a) his Department and (b) port authorities may override a salvage agreement. [18602]

Mr. Norris

Under section 137 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, the Secretary of State may give directions to the owner, master or any salvor in possession of a ship requiring any of them to take, or refrain from taking, any action for the purpose of preventing or reducing oil pollution. The power may be exercised where an accident has occurred to or on a ship, and in the opinion of the Secretary of State, oil from the ship will or may cause pollution on a large scale in the United Kingdom or in United Kingdom waters, and in his opinion the use of the powers is urgently needed.

Under the Dangerous Vessels Act 1985, a harbour master may give directions prohibiting the entry into, or requiring the removal from, the harbour of any vessel if in his opinion the condition of that vessel, or the nature and condition of anything it contains, is such that its presence in the harbour might involve a grave and imminent danger to the safety of any person or property or that it might seriously prejudice the use of the harbour by other vessels. Directions may be given to the owner, master or any salvor in possession. Under section 3 of the Act the Secretary of State may give directions on those lines to the harbour master, in effect overriding any directions the harbour master has given. The Dangerous Vessels Act does not affect the exercise by the Secretary of State of his powers under section 137 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Harbour authorities generally also have statutory powers to remove a vessel which is sunk, stranded or abandoned, so as to avoid interference with navigation. Some authorities may also have powers to direct a master or other persons having control of a vessel with the object of preventing or reducing pollution.