Search News & Insights
The Harbours Bill 2008
On 31 July 2008, the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey T.D., announced the publication of the Harbours (Amendment) Bill, 2008. The proposed new legislation is aimed at helping Ireland’s ten state port companies to grow and develop their business into the future. The principal objectives of the Bill are as follows:
- The Harbours Act, 1996 provides for port companies to have regard to relevant government provision guidelines in relation to the acquisition of land. The proposed bill extends this regard to the disposal of land
- The transfer of functions from the Minister of Transport to An Bord Pleanála in the context of compulsory acquisition of land by port companies
- The number of directors on a port company board will be reduced from 12 to 8
- Amendments to the limits of Drogheda Port Company to facilitate the proposal to build the new port of Bremore in north County Dublin
- Provision for a legislative basis for port companies to invest outside of their harbour limits
Summary of the Detailed Provisions of the New Bill:
Section 9 of the Harbours Act 1996 will be amended to give the Minister power, after consultation with the particular port company, to alter the limits of the harbour of a port company. Such an order may be made in relation to additional areas of land whether contiguous to the existing harbour limits for the purposes of relocating whole or part of the harbour. In considering whether to make such an order, the Minister is to have regard to the present and expected capacity of the Port, navigational safety and any issues in relation to leases or consents under the Foreshore Act 1933, applications and grants of planning permission and any environmental impact assessments that have been made. Specific extensions were made in relation to Drogheda Port Company and Dublin Port Company.
Section 5 of the Harbours Bill inserts a new Section 12A in to the Harbours Act 1996 and provides that a port company may, where it appears to be “requisite, advantageous or incidental to the performance by it of its functions under this Act”, may invest in or engage in commercial activities outside the limits of the harbour. In exercising such rights, the company must receive prior written approval of such activity from the Minister, together with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
As referred to above, in the principal objectives, Section 6 of the proposed bill amends Section 15 of the Harbours Act, 1996 to include the disposal of land by port companies. In the acquisition or disposal of land, the port company is to have consideration to any government policy or guidelines in relation to the acquisition of the land or the disposal of land, as appropriate by state entities, which is or at the time of being, extant. The consideration for which any land is sold by a port company should, in so far as practicable, be not less than its open market value.
Section 9 of the proposed Bill amends Section 23 of the Harbours Act, 1996 by extending the ability of a port company to borrow and raise funds to finance important port capacity projects.
Section 20 amends Section 4a of the (Irish Maritime Development Office) Marine Institute Act, 1991.
Ministerial responsibility for the Irish Maritime Office was transferred to the Minster for Transport by statutory instrument in 2005. This transfer is reflected in the proposed amendment and the bill also extends the remit of the Irish Maritime Development Office, providing them with additional function in relation to the ports and ports services sector.
The Bill has passed through the first stage of review and referral to a select committee. Further consideration will take place before the Oireachtas before the Bill is passed. Some amendments have been already proposed to the detail of the provisions and further developments are awaited.