The safety of fishing vessels has been a matter of concern to IMO since the Organization's inception, but the differences in design and operation between fishing vessels and other types of ship have proved to be an obstacle to their inclusion in the SOLAS and Load Lines Conventions.
The fact remains that the fishing sector, which reportedly suffers around 24,000 human losses annually, is still lacking the international mandatory safety regime which would be provided by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol for the Safety of Fishing Vessels and the International Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995, if both instruments had come into force.
IMO is implementing a technical co-operation programme to provide information and assistance, at the regional level, in order to promote acceptance of the two instruments, as well as the implementation of the Fishing Vessel Safety Code and Voluntary Guidelines.
Whilst the entry into force of the Torremolinos Protocol and the STCW-F Convention remains a prime goal, the Fishing Vessel Safety Code and Voluntary Guidelines provide useful recommendations to safeguard fishermen's lives.
IMO Member States have been urged to accept the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol and the 1995 STCW-F Convention in order to bring these treaties into force to enhance fishing vessel safety and training standards of fishing vessel personnel.
Revised fishing vessel safety code and voluntary guidelines
As well as thetwo main treaties, the Torremolinos Protocol and the STCW-F Convention, IMO has developed, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), a number of non-mandatory instruments. These include the FAO/ILO/IMO Document for Guidance on Fishermen's Training and Certification and the revised Code of Safety for Fishermen and Fishing Vessels, 2005, and the Voluntary Guidelines for the Design, Construction and Equipment of Small Fishing Vessels, 2005.
The revised Fishing Vessel Safety Code and Voluntary Guidelines - originally developed and approved in the 1970s - have been developed for use primarily by competent authorities, training institutions, fishing vessel owners, fishermen's representative organizations and non-governmental organizations having a recognized role in fishermen's safety and health and training.
Part A of the Code provides guidance on the development of national codes and fishermen's education and training manuals and guidance on the safety and health of fishermen. Competent authorities will be encouraged to make use of the contents of the Code and the Voluntary Guidelines in the production of safety and health and training materials in an appropriate format to suit the particular needs of the fisheries of the country or region and in local languages.
Additionally, several resolutions and circulars addressing various aspects of fishing vessel safety have been developed over the years, while the development of safety standards for small fishing vessels has recently begun at IMO. As there are no international safety standards in place for these type of vessels and in many countries, national regulations, guidelines or standards for small fishing vessels are either non-existent or inappropriate, the proposed safety standards will complement the Code of Safety and the Voluntary Guidelines and will address the safety concerns specific to fishing vessels below 12 m in length, and undecked fishing vessels of any size. It is anticipated that the standards will primarily be used by the relevant competent authorities to upgrade their national laws and regulations.