Mutual insurance provider The Shipowners’ Club, has produced a comprehensive handbook ‘Fishing vessel safety’ highlighting areas in which crew members can become more safety aware, while assisting crew and owners alike to recognise potential dangers and operating hazards.
Fishing is the most dangerous job in the world. The International Labour Organisation estimated in 1999 that 24,000 fatalities occurred worldwide in capture fisheries each year and various studies since show fatalities on fishing vessels remain a real threat.
This is backed-up by the claims records of incidents advised to the Club that historically show personal injury and illness as the area causing the most reported cases. These events are often of a nature that could easily result in death and the consequences have a huge impact on the families and dependants of the unfortunate seamen.
“We realised a safety guide was warranted as we became aware of the extent and nature of incidents that our Members have experienced, as well as seeing evidence from other industry studies,” explained Louise Hall, Loss Prevention Manager in Shipowners’ London branch. “The intention was not to create a bible of safety for fishing vessels, more to highlight crucial areas related to our historical claims and to address those.”
“The booklet can be used by the skipper or the shore-side office as a guide to what is expected of them regarding training of their crews, safety and maintenance. It can also be used by crew members to help them take responsibility for their own safety and to do their own risk assessment when on board. It can be read all at once but it can also be used as a reference guide as well.”
The publication is divided into sections that cover the vessel, basic stability, navigation, working safety equipment and risk assessments, with real-life case studies included as useful appendices.
“It can be very hard to get people’s attention in training or to engage a reader, so we have included case studies which are real cases,” said Louise Hall. “When you’re reading about an incident that has actually happened, there is significantly more impact on the reader than a hypothetical event, and so this is a useful training aid.”
The booklet urges fishermen to remember that their vessels are moving; often with wet platforms and therefore the risk associated with any task will dramatically increase. The decks of a fishing vessel are very busy with many pieces of equipment i.e. ropes, wires, nets and shackles being utilised simultaneously.
“One important message is that people should wear life-jackets or life-belts all the time when on deck,” said Louise Hall. “Studies have shown that the highest percentage of instances of death is caused by people not wearing flotation devices.”
The booklet was written with the assistance of Club Member Austral Fisheries Pty Ltd, as well as the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association and Seafish, a UK government-backed organisation that supports all sectors of the seafood industry. Shipowners is also supporting Seafish in an initiative to promote better safety practice through the provision of on board safety kits.
“As a mutual insurer, we take time to better understand our Members’ risks of operation and because we are involved with associations that represent our Members, we are able to understand more clearly what really goes,” said Louise Hall. “Consequently we believe this handbook will be a genuinely useful resource for our Members.”