Harbour Dues – a tax without merit

As every Fisherman knows under Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates & Charges) 2003 and 2012 there is a mandatory charge in relation to waste and water every time the vessel enters the Harbour. This of course is not much of a choice as these are the designated Fishery Landing ports. There is no choice.

I describe Harbour charges as a tax without merit as it flies in the face of common sense and the Polluter Pays Principal.

Under the Orders the water charge is ‘mandatory on all vessels using a Fishery Harbour Centre whether or not they use fresh water’. .

Waste is also mandatory and ranges from €20 per month through to €1000 per month depending on the GT of the vessel in question. The Order states that this charge is mandatory ‘whether or not waste is disposed of’.

This approach defies belief. The Polluter Pays Principal states that the person who produces waste must pay for it to be cleaned. You bring rubbish to a landfill, you pay for it. This Principal applies to the recent establishment of Irish Water – if you use water you pay for it. Indeed the most common example of this Principal in action in everyday life, is the Plastic Bag Levy in Supermarkets.

With all three examples – if you do not use the service, you do not pay for it i.e. you are rewarded for not polluting by not being charged.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that Government Policy is to apply the Polluter Pays Principal.

This is reflected in the following instruments, embracing the Polluter Pays Principal, that are law in Ireland:

1. 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development to which Ireland is a Signatory,
2. Article 191(2) of the Treaty on European Union
3. Council Recommendation 75/436
4. Waste Management Act of 1996
5. Council Directive 2004/35

It is ludicrous that this current Government, who have created Irish water under the very same Principal of Polluter Pays, can sign into law an Order that enshrines a mandatory charge which, within the very order itself, envisages someone being charged who is not using the service.

It is noteworthy that the Orders are structured in a commercial way as a result of the Commercial nature of the activity of Fishing Vessels. Yet, the Harbour Centres themselves cannot be called Commercial in operation.

There are many examples of maintenance not being up to scratch. Harbour Masters not being replaced. And decisions being made without consultation with the Customers who are paying these charges.

It would certainly appear to me that the Department cannot have it both ways. You cannot have mandatory charges for services not being used and you cannot have Fishermen having next to no say in relation to the operation of Fishery Centres which they have no choice by law to land catches in.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or dermot@conways.ie