The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) (Con)
My Lords, this order will allow the UK to recognise the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, or IALA, and assist in the completion of its transition from a non-governmental to an intergovernmental organisation. The IALA may not be familiar to some noble Lords, but its work is fundamental to maritime safety and, given that 95% of all of our import and export tonnage is transported by sea, the wealth and prosperity of our island nation. The IALA is and will remain a technical, not-for-profit body whose key aim is to co-ordinate
“improvement and harmonisation of marine aids to navigation and related services to the benefit of … navigation, efficiency of shipping traffic and protection of the environment.”
It brings together marine aids to navigation authorities, manufacturers, consultants and scientific and training organisations from all parts of the world, providing a vital forum for the exchange of views, expertise and experience.
The UK was a founding member of the current organisation when it was first established in 1957. Our illustrious maritime heritage and continued leadership on aids to navigation through the work of our general lighthouse authorities—Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and Irish Lights—means that we have played, and continue to play, a significant role in all its achievements. These include the introduction of a single buoyage system, which replaced the more than 30 different types in use worldwide as late as the 1970s. Many of these had confusing and, worse, often conflicting rules. As a result, many ships were wrecked and lives lost simply because there was no consistency and mariners were often unable to fathom intended meaning.
This represented a significant barrier to the improvement of navigation safety and was the biggest challenge faced by the IALA when it was first formed. Although there was a clear need for consolidation and an internationally recognised consistent method of marking and wayfinding at sea, agreement on the details remained difficult. The IALA managed to navigate a path through these problems and created the IALA maritime buoyage system in 1976, adopted by the IMO in 1977. It remains a fundamental cornerstone of maritime navigation today, and has had an immediate and long-lasting impact on maritime safety.
The IALA continues to set international standards for all marine aids to navigation, make recommendations and deliver guidance. It has been instrumental in facilitating the delivery of enhanced navigation safety—for example, in facilitating the introduction of purely electronic aids to navigation, the transition from filament bulbs to LED lighting and the delivery of new power sources, such as solar. It also advises on challenges to navigation safety, such as offshore windfarms, and new technologies, including autonomous vessels.
The UK’s maritime heritage, although at times painful and tragic, means we have an obligation to others to incorporate and share our learning regarding safety in all of the IALA’s outputs. This is vital if we are to prevent the reoccurrence of the mistakes and tragedies that litter our history. That is why this order is so important. It will facilitate the IALA’s richly deserved transition to intergovernmental status.
The order is a very simple SI that confers the legal capacities of a body corporate on IALA in the UK. Article 1 provides that the order may not come into force until the future intergovernmental organisation comes into existence for the UK. If the UK is one of the first 30 states to ratify, this will be 90 days after the date of the deposit of the ratification instrument of the 30th state. If the UK ratifies after the convention is already in force, it will be on the 30th day after it deposits its instrument of ratification. This article also provides that the order’s provisions extend to the whole of the UK.
The UK was a founding member of IALA when it was first established in 1957. We are very keen to be at the forefront of its transition to an intergovernmental organisation. As I have noted, there is a process that things have to go through, and we need this order for the process to really get going and for us to be able to recognise IALA. I commend the order to the Committee.