HL Deb 08 December 1998 vol 595 cc86-7WA
Lord Williams of Elvel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What arrangements are being made for registration and licensing of the maximum continuous engine power of fishing vessels. [HL41]

Lord Donoughue

On 17 December last year my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary announced that Fisheries Departments planned to introduce from 1 Janaury 1999 phased arrangements for recording maximum continuous engine power on fishing vessel licences.

Following that announcement, the arrangements for the recording of maximum continuous engine power have been the subject of detailed consideration by Fisheries Departments, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Since the fishing vessel licensing regime operated by Fisheries Departments is dependent on vessel characteristics as registered by the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen, part of MCA, parallel changes will be introduced in the arrangements for registering fishing vessel engine power. These changes have also been discussed with representatives of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, the Northern Ireland Fishermen's Federation and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation as part of a wider review of UK fishing vessel licensing.

We are now writing to advise all fishing vessel owners and licence holders of the new arrangements.

From 1 July 1999 new registrations, re-registrations, and changes in existing registrations affecting ownership or vessel characteristics (engine power, length or breadth), and the licensing of such vessels, are to be based on the declaration and recording of maximum continuous engine power. The permanent derating of engines will be permitted but vessel owners will have to provide a signed statement or certificate from the engine manufacturer or a suitably qualified marine engineer setting out the steps that have been taken to achieve such a modification. De-rated engine power will only be registered and licensed where the MCA and Fisheries Departments are satisfied that the modifications are permanent.

The Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993 will be amended to provide specifically for the registration of maximum continuous or permanently modified engine power.

From 1 January 2000 the maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power of vessels registered before 1 July 1999 will be taken to be that declared on the Certificate of Registry and shown on the fishing vessel licence. When vessels are registered between 1 January and 30 June 1999, owners will wish to take appropriate action to ensure that they declare the full power of their vessels (maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power) because this is the basis on which subsequent enforcement will take place.

Checks will be undertaken from 1 Janaury 2000 to ensure that the apparent installed engine power of fishing vessels is consistent with the registered and licensed engine power. Where the apparent installed power is greater than the registered and licensed power, a fishing vessel's licence will become invalid and a new licence will not be issued until the owner acquires additional vessel capacity units (VCUs) to cover the deficit in engine power or undertakes permanent de-rating of the vessel's engine. However the owners of vessels registered before 1 Janaury 1999 will have until 31 December 2004 to rectify any anomalies in their registered engine power if they provide a written undertaking specifying the steps they are taking.

To assist the implementation of the new arrangements, a capacity penalty will only be payable on the additional VCUs needed to cover the discrepancy between apparent installed and registered engine power, provided no other changes are made to the characteristics of the vessel. A 20 per cent. capacity penalty will operate unless the adjustment to engine power is made before 31 December 2001, in which circumstances the penalty will be 10 per cent. For this purpose it will be permissible for vessel owners to split VCUs and licenses between two or more vessels.

The arrangements set out above will apply to the licensing of fishing vessels wherever they operate. However, from 1 January 1999 vessels applying for licences for the first time in respect of fishing opportunities in external and other waters will be expected to satisfy Fisheries Departments that the maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power has been declared and appropriately licensed.

Finally, as announced last December, the current licensing arrangements for fishing vessels are being reviewed jointly by Fisheries Departments and representatives of the fishing industry. This announcement is, therefore, without prejudice to any further changes that are recommended in licensing, including capacity penalties for licence transfers and aggregations.