Unfair Harbour Charges?
Currently there are two different charges which are vexing Fishermen:
1. Water Charges
2. Waste Charges
At present there is a mandatory charge per vessel under this heading.
Statutory Instrument 439 of 2003, Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2003, provides for the levying of a water charge at point 9 of Schedule 1.
A Statutory Instrument is known as delegated legislation and while laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, they do not have the same standing as an Act i.e. an Act would superceed a Statutory Instrument. In this case the Statutory Instrument is given life chiefly from the Fishery Harbour Centres Act of 1968 which provides for at section 4(2)(b)
(b) by order, fix rates, tolls and other charges for the use of facilities (including the harbour) and services in the centre and provide for their payment and collection and for penalties and remedies for their non-payment (including distress and sale of ships, boats and goods in respect of which any rates, tolls or charges are payable),[emphasis added]
The position has been amended but this is the Statutory power being referred too.
I have added emphasis to the phrase ‘for the use of facilities’ because it would appear that the then Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Mr. Dermot Ahern, exceeded his Statutory Authority.
He can only levy a charge when something is being used.
In addition, I believe any charge that is mandatory whether something is being used or not is clearly unfair and disproportionate. Nor is there any attempt to balance the difference between excessive users and moderate users.
In any event, the Minister has, in my opinion, exceeded his powers in this regard.
There are two options open to the Owners/Operators of Vessels;
1. Challenge the validity of the Statutory Instrument or,
2. Do not pay the charge and let a prosecution issue and have the matter determined by the District Court.
Again, this too is a mandatory charge.
This is covered by Statutory Instrument 439/2003, Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2003.
Charge 11 of the Second Schedule makes it mandatory for collect a set fee in relation to ‘ship generated waste’.
The position is precisely the same as set out in relation to water. The then Minister has exceeded his Authority under the 1968 Act and as such, I believe this section is non operable.
Indeed, it is extremely disproportionate that a heavy waste producer is charged the same as a light waste producer.
I would propose the same two options to any Owner or operator as highlighted under the Water Charge heading as above.