He told the House of Commons that he had accepted 86 of the 103 recommendations of Lord Donaldson's inquiry report, Safer ships, cleaner seas, which followed the Braer oil tanker spill in Shetland two years ago. A further 13 recommendations were under consideration and only four, including a proposal to target for inspection ships operating around the UK coast, had been rejected.
Several recommendations are already in force. Two tugs have been located in the Channel to ensure rapid salvage is possible and lists of ships which have failed inspections in British ports are published monthly.
Dr Mawhinney is also pressing for international agreement on the fitting of transponders - which emit a call sign - to ensure that all ships can be identified at sea. In the meantime, he is seeking to ensure that ships have clearly visible recognition marks. He said that the UK would be extending its jurisdiction over pollution from ships to 200 miles from our shores, with the aim of reducing pollution that reaches land.
Dr Mawhinney said the Government was considering action against deficient "klondykers" - foreign fish-factory ships - and he added: "We will issue a consultation paper shortly with proposals for possible legislative action, including the extension of our powers of inspection and detention to ships in UK waters not on innocent or transit passage."
Michael Meacher, Labour's transport spokesman, welcomed many of Dr Mawhinney's proposals, but urged him to withdraw "the 15 per cent cut this year in your own department's Marine Safety Agency budget, the 7 per cent cut in the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and the 6 per cent cut in the Coastguard Agency".
Andrew Linnington, of the ship officers' union Numast, said that both the Donaldson report and the Government's response ignored the fact that poorly-trained crews, "chosen on the basis of cheapness rather than ability to do the job", were often responsible for accidents.Reuse content