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Scotland Act 1998

Section E3: Marine Transport
Purpose and Effect

This Section reserves certain matters relating to international and UK shipping including marine safety and security, navigational rights, regulation of the British merchant fleet and all matters relating to the employment of seafarers.

Parliamentary Consideration
Details of Provisions

In general, matters relating to marine transport are reserved where there is a need for consistent provision across the UK, for example in order to comply with international obligations or agreements (such as those relating to vessel safety or the employment of seafarers) or for practical reasons (e.g. regarding coastguards and lighthouses).

The Section provides that the subject-matter of the following Acts are reserved matters:


the Coastguard Act 1925.  This Act defines the activities and powers of HM Coastguard;


the Hovercraft Act 1968, except so far as relating to the regulation of noise and vibration caused by hovercraft. This is to ensure that matters relating to marine safety in relation to hovercraft are reserved;


the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1971. This Act incorporates into UK law international agreements (the Hague-Visby rules) which set out the circumstances in which the carrier or the cargo owner are liable for the loss or damage of goods at sea;


section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (prohibition on approaching dangerous wrecks). This deals with the designation of protected areas around dangerous wrecks;


the Merchant Shipping (Liner Conferences) Act 1982.  This Act makes provision for the exemption from normal competition regulations of ‘liner conferences’, i.e. cartels of deep sea container shipping operators concerned to prevent over-capacity and damaging price competition on certain specified routes.  The Act also incorporates into UK law the United Nations Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences;


the Dangerous Vessels Act 1985. This deals with the powers of harbour masters and the Secretary of State in relation to dangerous vessels;


the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, other than Part I (Aviation Security).  This Act covers matters of maritime security;


the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992.  This Act makes provision about bills of lading and deals with rights and liabilities under shipping contracts;


the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.  This Act deals with a wide range of marine matters.  It specifies what constitutes British ships, and deals with their registration.  It also deals with such matters as masters and seamen in seagoing ships, marine safety, fishing vessels, marine pollution from ships, liability for oil pollution from ships, lighthouses, salvage and wreck, and enforcement officers;


the Shipping and Trading Interests (Protection) Act 1995.  This Act gives powers in relation to measures to be taken in response to discriminatory foreign action against UK shipping and trade interests.  This reservation is consistent with the reservation of the general area of protection of trading interests (Section C15); and


sections 24 and 26 to 28 of the Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Act 1997.  These sections make provision about wrecks, piracy and international maritime bodies.

The following matters are also reserved:

  • Navigational rights and freedoms.  These derive from international law.  Coastal states, such as the UK, have a duty not to impose requirements on foreign ships which would have the practical effect of denying or impairing these rights or freedoms.  Uniform treatment of passing shipping traffic all around the UK is necessary to ensure compliance with the UK’s international obligations.

  • Financial assistance for shipping services which start or finish or both outside Scotland.  With one exception about bulk freight services (noted below), the Scottish Parliament is not able to legislate about financial assistance to shipping services between Scotland and other parts of the UK or Europe since differing approaches might distort the market for shipping services.  The Scottish Parliament is, however, able to legislate about financial assistance to shipping services operating wholly within Scotland.


The following matters are excepted from the reservation:

  • Ports, harbours, piers and boatslips, except in relation to the matters reserved by virtue of paragraph (d), (f), (g) or (i).  The Scottish Parliament therefore has legislative competence over ports, harbours, piers and boatslips in Scotland.  The exception does not, however, extend to the reserved matters of maritime security and safety.

  • Regulation of works which may obstruct or endanger navigation.  This exception gives the Scottish Parliament legislative competence over the regulation of works which may obstruct or endanger the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms.  The general reservations relating to oil and gas (Section D2) and telecommunications (Section C10) mean, however, that consents for works related to those industries will be reserved matters.

  • The subject-matter of the Highlands and Islands Shipping Services Act 1960 in relation to financial assistance for bulk freight services.  The 1960 Act allows for financial assistance to shipping services serving the Highlands and Islands from any port of embarkation.  The exception allows the Scottish Parliament, to continue to subsidise bulk freight shipping services between the Highlands and Islands and locations outside Scotland which are necessary for the social and economic well-being of island communities.

Executive Devolution

The following functions were included in the Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/1750), as amended by S.I. 2000/1563.

The Merchant Shipping (Formal Investigations) Rules 1985 (S.I. 1985/1001), rule 4(1)(1)

The function of the Secretary of State to appoint assessor

The Merchant Shipping (Section 63 inquiries) Rules 1997 ( S.I. 1997/347), rule 5(1)

The function of the Secretary of State to appoint assessor

The following functions have been made exercisable by a Minister of the Crown subject to a requirement for agreement of or consultation with the Scottish Ministers by the Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/1750).

The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (c.48), sections 5, 6, 7 and 10(1) and Schedule 3.

Section 5 - The functions of the Secretary of State as licensing authority in relation to deposits of substances or articles in the sea or under the sea bed, the scuttling of vessels, loading with a view to such deposit and towing or propelling with a view to scuttling.

Section 6 - The functions of the Secretary of State as licensing authority in relation to incineration of substances or articles at sea or loading for that purpose.

Section 7 - The function of the Ministers of making orders to exempt operations from the requirement to be licensed.

Section 10(1) - The function of carrying out operations to protect the marine environment.

Schedule 3 - The functions of the Secretary of State as licensing authority of dealing with representations concerning the refusal to grant, the variation or revocation of, or the provisions contained in, a licence.

The Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (c.21), section 10(2)(f).

The function of the Secretary of State, by regulation, to make provision for and in connection with the registration of a fishing vessel as British ships (section 10(2)(f), provide for regulations to be made with respect to (among other matters) the marking of ships registered or to be registered, including marks for identifying the port to which a fishing vessel is to be treated as belonging).

The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland continue to be Commissioners for the Northern Lighthouse Board.


This entry was omitted as from 16 June 2000 by Article 6 of S.I. 2000/1563.

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