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Commercial Fishing



A new fishing vessel working conditions law will come into force from this November. The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) will require UK fishing vessels to comply with the International Organization’s Working In Fishing Convention.

This follows the MCA’s public and industry consultation on these measures, which addressed all aspects of living and working conditions on fishing vessels – including decent crew accommodation, work agreements and regular payment of wages, medical fitness of seafarers, medical care on board and health and safety.

The new legislation builds on existing standards for the industry, some of which (such as those on wages) are out of date or limited in application. Implementing the International Labour Organization’s Work In Fishing Convention (ILO 188) provides a framework for protecting all fishermen, regardless of their employment status (whether employed or share fishermen). It will also allow the MCA to enforce these standards on fishing vessels over 24 metres which are registered in the UK and non-UK vessels calling in UK ports.

Using the new legislation for safer working conditions for crew, the MCA will require personal flotation devices (PFDs) to be worn while working on deck unless a written risk assessment can demonstrate that the risk of going overboard can be eliminated.

“There are lots of measures which the fishing industry has already taken to improve safety and reduce the number of severe injuries and deaths to crew. Whilst the first priority should be to prevent anyone going into the water, if the worst happens and crew are lost overboard, wearing a PFD is the single most effective step to improve the chance of a successful recovery.

“Added to this, it’s important to note that personal flotation devices are available in a number of different designs and it is possible to choose one that suits you and your type of fishing.”

Katy Ware, the MCA’s Director of Maritime Safety & Standards, said: “Fishermen are working in the most dangerous industry in the UK. We have a duty to improve the living and working standards for those who play such an important role in our maritime sector. The new legislation will enshrine better employment conditions into UK law and help ensure that all fishermen have a fair and safe working environment.

“We will work with fishermen to bring crew accommodation standards on all fishing vessels where crew stay on board up to basic standards for safety, sanitation, heating, ventilation and mainenance. The other key reason for bringing in ILO 188 is to provide a framework to address cases of mistreatment of fishermen on board by setting out – and enforcing – the minimum standards we expect for living and working conditions for fishermen working in the UK sector.”

Derek Cardno, SFF Safety Officer, said it was encouraging that the MCA wanted to work with industry on implementation of the new rules. “The industry has requested that a sensible and practical approach be taken to these new requirements in the coming years.”