Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act, 1993


Vessels in Distress

Functions of authorised officer where vessel in distress.

7.—(1) Where a vessel is in distress in the State other than in a harbour, an authorised officer shall, upon being made acquainted with the circumstances, take such steps under subsection (2) as the authorised officer thinks fit for the saving of—

(a) the lives of the persons belonging to the vessel (in this Act referred to as “shipwrecked persons”), and

(b) the vessel and the cargo and apparel of the vessel.

(2) Subject to subsection (5), an authorised officer may, for the purposes of saving shipwrecked persons, a vessel in distress or the cargo or apparel of the vessel—

(a) require assistance from such relevant persons as that officer thinks necessary;

(b) require the master of any vessel near at hand to give such aid with that vessel and the crew thereof as may be in that master's power;

(c) demand the use of any vehicle, vessel or aircraft suitably equipped for the purpose required that may be near at hand.

(3) If any person refuses without reasonable cause to comply with any such requisition or demand under this section, that person shall be guilty of an offence.

(4) (a) The owner of a vessel in distress shall, subject to paragraph (b), be liable to pay to the Minister the expenses, including the expense of hire or use of any vehicle, vessel or aircraft, of or incidental to any action taken by an authorised officer for the purposes of saving the vessel or the cargo or apparel of the vessel in pursuance of this Act and those expenses shall, without prejudice to any other remedy, be recoverable in the same manner as salvage is recoverable.

(b) Where the Minister considers it appropriate in exceptional circumstances, the Minister may waive the whole or any part of the liability of the owner of a vessel concerned to pay expenses to which paragraph (a) relates.

(5) This section shall not apply—

(a) to a member of the Defence Forces or to any vehicle, vessel or aircraft of, or under the control of, the Defence Forces, or

(b) to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution or to any vehicle or vessel of, or under the control of, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

(6) In this section—

“relevant persons” means, subject to subsection (5)

(a) the master of any Safety Convention ship which could, if communication could be made to that ship by a ship in distress, be requisitioned to proceed with all speed to the assistance of the persons in distress,

(b) the master of any other vessel upon whom a duty to render assistance is imposed by section 23 ,

(c) in relation to the management of the vessel in distress, the crew of the vessel but only where the master of the vessel so requests the authorised officer in respect of that management,

(d) the crew necessary for the proper operation of any vehicle, vessel or aircraft to which subsection (2) (c) relates together with the personnel necessary to service or communicate with such vehicle, vessel or aircraft,

(e) any other person in the vicinity of the vessel in distress;

“Safety Convention ship” has the same meaning as it has in the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Act, 1952 .