• News

West Cork lawyer takes maritime debate into the House of Commons

Saturday, 19th November, 2016 7:10am
West Cork lawyer takes maritime debate into the House of Commons

Michael Kingston shares a light moment at the House of Commons recently.

By BRIAN MOORE

A GOLEEN lawyer addressed the House of Commons recently on a subject close to his heart – maritime matters.

Michael Kingston is a London-based lawyer who is currently working on improving regulation in the global shipping industry. 

The Goleen native is, sadly, only too aware the dangers that marine traffic poses to both the environment and to the safety of those who make their living at sea. 

It was on the night of his 4th birthday, January 8th 1979, that Michael heard of his father Tim’s death, along with 49 others, when the oil tanker, the Betelgeuse, exploded while docked at Whiddy Island. Michael went on to study history and politics in UCD and then embarked on his legal studies at the BPP law school in London after reading the tribunal report into the Whiddy disaster.

Now, nearly 38 years on, Michael is recognised as a world leader when it comes to maritime law and the marine energy sector.

It is with that knowledge and experience, as part of a group of maritime insurance specialists, including Lloyd’s of London, that Michael has been working to finalise the United Nations International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Polar Code for Shipping which comes into force in January 2017.

When asked to address the All Party Parliamentary Group on maritime traffic across the Polar Regions, Michael didn’t hesitate. 

‘I had been asked to make this presentation because I have helped – though the insurance industry – to position British influence in Arctic operations, as we have made much progress at the IMO and at the Arctic Council. I am also preparing a paper for Ireland to become observing members of the Arctic Council so that Ireland can have a place at that hugely important and influential diplomatic table,’ Michael told The Southern Star. 

‘My key message in my presentation is that I understand history in a hard way – more so than most. I have gone out of my way across the world on a voluntary basis to make things a little safer for others. In the British Parliament I hoped to get the message across, and that when you find good people, together we can make a difference.’ 

Michael also highlighted the work and sacrifice of the many Irishmen who have influenced the world’s maritime affairs. ‘Some of the greatest participants in the British Polar expeditions were Irishmen. This was mainly because the Irish are travellers and seafarers and many were in the British Navy and were selected because of their strength and intelligence as seafarers, and their turn of wit to keep the spirits up when the going got tough. These Irishmen’s heroics were lost in Irish history and have never really been acknowledged properly,’ Michael told the House of Commons. 

He added that in doing this work he is alsotrying to honour those who died at Whiddy Island on 8th January 1979.

‘I want to remind governments that you cannot walk over people and run roughshod over the weak when they are at their weakest. You cannot hide and cover up massive regulatory failings instead of being honest.’