Aimed at making one of the nation's most hazardous industries safer, the USCG unveiled a Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety (CFVS) Action Plan. This Action Plan was developed with extensive input from the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Advisory Committee (CFIVAC) and incorporated recommendations generated from the Advisory Committee and from a USCG Task Force, which investigated the tragic loss of five vessels and 11 lives, earlier in the year.
The Action Plan calls for several short-term actions to take place prior to the winter fishing season, as well as eight long-term initiatives aimed at institutionalizing across-the-bard safety standards.
Short-term actions will increase USCG presence on fishing docks with the goal of greater face-to-face interaction between fishermen and the USCG. The USCG conducts voluntary dockside examinations of commercial fishing vessels in order to ensure all required safety equipment is on board and maintained properly. These voluntary exams have proven to be an effective tool in reducing risk and loss of life; however, less than six percent of the commercial fishing fleet annually take advantage of these no-cost safety examinations.
The long-term safety initiatives include:
· Improve the validation of emergency preparedness drills to ensure crews are capable of responding to emergencies at sea;
· Enhance watertight integrity and vessel stability requirements to reduce vessel sinkings and capsizings;
· Refine accident investigation and analysis to better pinpoint causes;
· Develop outreach programs to foster greater communication between the USCG and commercial fishermen;
· Coordinate fishery management policies with safety practices in mind;
· Ensure safety equipment requirements for fishing vessels are consistent with environmental exposure and risk;
· Develop a program for required periodic dockside vessel safety examinations
similar to the current voluntary program; and
· Develop a training program for optimizing safe operations by fishermen at sea.
The USCG intends to pursue these last two initiatives using a "new, non-traditional approach" to solve the difficult problem of crew training and vessel controls. The focus on the fishing industry will be to reduce "risk" of personnel, vessel condition and safety gear deficiencies that contribute most to vessel losses and deaths.