IMO Promotes Fishing Vessel Safety

fishing boat
file photo

Published Oct 29, 2017 12:57 AM by The Maritime Executive

The IMO is campaigning for support for the Cape Town Agreement to enhance fishing vessel safety.

“We want to reduce loss of life in one of the most dangerous professions in the world, and we want to enhance safety on board fishing vessels,” said Sandra Allnutt, Head of Maritime Technology in IMO’s Maritime Safety Division, following a regional seminar, in Cape Town, South Africa, to promote ratification and implementation of the treaty. 

“This agreement, once fully ratified, in force and implemented, will be an internationally binding agreement which will facilitate better control of fishing vessel safety by flag, port and coastal States. It will also contribute to the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing” Allnutt said.

The Cape Town Agreement was adopted at an international conference held in South Africa in 2012, as a means to bring into effect the provisions of the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, which was later modified by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. In ratifying the 2012 Agreement, Parties agree to amendments to the provisions of the 1993 Protocol, so that they can come into force as soon as possible thereafter.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 States, with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 meters (79 feet) in length and over operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it. To date, seven countries have ratified the Cape Town Agreement: Congo, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and South Africa. Between them, they have an aggregate of 884 relevant vessels.

International treaties such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) have been in force for decades for commercial shipping industry, including cargo and passenger ships. However, the key instrument applicable to fishing vessels is still not in force. This means there are no mandatory international requirements for stability and associated seaworthiness, life-saving appliances, communications equipment or fire protection.  
“Implementation of the fishing vessel safety provisions is long overdue,” Allnutt said. “So we have been running a series of seminars around the world to explain what the Cape Town Agreement is, why it is important, how it can be implemented into national legislation and what the next steps are for a Party to the Agreement.”

The Cape Town Regional Seminar (October 16-20, 2017) was attended by participants from 10 countries in the Africa Anglophone region. It followed similar events, organized by IMO in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), including, in the Cook Islands for 10 countries in the Pacific region; in Côte d’Ivoire for 12 countries from the Africa Francophone region; in Indonesia for 11 countries from the East Asia region; in Belize for 13 countries in the Caribbean; and in Peru for 12 countries in Latin America.

Future seminars are planned to be held during 2018. 

The push to promote the Cape Town Agreement has been given extra momentum by the entry into force of related treaties under the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the FAO – organizations with which IMO works closely in the context of safety of fishing vessels and (IUU) fishing.

ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) enters into force on November 16, 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation. 

FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009, entered into force in 2016 and now has 50 Parties. It seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures.  

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III), meeting in September 2017, agreed a number of proposals to address IUU fishing, focusing on key areas of vessel identification; flag and port state performance; training and implementation of relevant instruments; and environmental issues.  

The IMO Assembly, meeting in November 2017, is expected to adopt a resolution to extend the IMO ship identification number scheme, on a voluntary basis, to fishing vessels of 100 gross tonnage and above of non-steel construction and all motorized inboard fishing vessels of less than 100 gross tonnage down to a size limit of 12 meters in length overall (LOA) authorized to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag State. This move is expected to contribute to the fight against IUU fishing and to the implementation of the FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels.

IMO is also undertaking a comprehensive review of its treaty on training of fishing vessel personnel, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995, which entered into force in 2012. The aim is to update and revise the treaty, taking into account the unique nature of the fishing industry, the fishing working environment and the need to prevent damage to the marine environment.

“We are seeing increasing commitment from a number of IMO Member States as well as from regional organizations and international governmental and non-governmental organizations to promote the Cape Town Agreement and other measures to make fishing a safer and more sustainable industry. This is something to be welcomed, for the millions of people worldwide who work in the fishing sector,” Allnutt said.