Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has welcomed the publication by the Irish Maritime Administration in his Department of a revised Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Equipment and Operation of Small Fishing Vessels (less than 15 meters length).
The Code, which was last revised in 2005, has been updated to ensure that the experiences gained from its implementation as well as relevant recommendations by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) have been incorporated. The revised Code will come into operation from 3rd March 2014.
Small fishing vessels are already required to carry EPIRBs (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons). The revised Code requires them to carry automatic, float-free EPIRBs, and for everyone on board such fishing vessels to wear Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs).
These changes to the Code follow several reports from the MCIB recommending the use of float-free EPIRBS on fishing vessels and the wearing of PLBs by all on board. Float-free EPIRBS are now much smaller and cheaper than earlier models.
Every fishing vessel will be required to be in compliance with these new requirements when they are next surveyed. This is in line with the safety initiative for the Irish Fishing Industry launched in Union Hall in July 2013 by Minister Varadkar and his colleague, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney. At the same event both Ministers also announced a new, enhanced Safety Equipment Grant Aid Scheme by Bord Iascaigh Mhara.
“While safety equipment may prove valuable in accelerating response times when a vessel or crew member gets into difficulty, it is no substitute for the overriding ‘safety-first’ approach which has to be recognized and adopted by everyone in the fishing sector if we are to see a reduction in the number of incidents, injuries and loss of life in the sector. I also remind all skippers and fishermen of their responsibility to check on all of their safety equipment prior to each trip to ensure it is all on board and in working condition,” Minister Varadkar said.
The revised Code also includes details on existing requirements for the regular carrying out of musters and drills to ensure skippers and crew are familiar with safety procedures should an incident occur.
“Our laws, regulations and codes of practice already reflect best international practice, and there is no compelling reason why, one day, there should be no fatalities in the Irish fishing sector. We need a change in attitude, culture and practice across the sector.”