UK dials up small fishing-vessel safety requirements

Published on
September 10, 2021
A small Scottish fishing vessel

Small fishing vessels operating out of the United Kingdom are now required to be inspected both in and out of the water every five years after proposals to make the industry safer and reduce the number of fatalities came into force on 6 September, 2021.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels (less than 15 meters length overall) replaces the previous requirement that fishing boats only needed to be inspected in the water when first joining the U.K. Ship Register, and after that inspected either in or out of the water once every five years.

As well as in- and out-of-water inspections, the new code addresses crew protection and man overboard recovery, construction, watertight and weathertight integrity, stability, machinery, and electrical installations.

According to the MCS, the U.K. saw 52 fishing fatalities between 2012 and 2020. Meanwhile, approximately 65 percent of deaths to fishing vessel crew and 69 percent of fishing vessel losses between 2009 and 2020 were on vessels under 15 meters.

“Fishing is one of the most-dangerous industries, with the rate of fatalities being approximately 100 times higher than that of the U.K. general workforce. These requirements are about making and bringing about changes that improve safety for those working at sea,” MCA Head of Fishing Safety David Fenner said.

The new requirements will bring big changes and safety improvements, he said.

“There are now stability requirements for new and existing vessels, while vessels built to a standard have to be maintained to that standard and those that were not have to demonstrate they are safe and fit for purpose. We know that the fishing industry faces a number of challenges to comply with this code, but it’s been written so that responsible owners will already be complying with many aspects of it,” Fenner said. “Ultimately though, there have been too many deaths and we want to make sure we’ve done all we can to reduce that risk with an enforceable code. The sea is dangerous and we want to make sure we do all we can to protect those who work in it.”

The U.K. fleet comprises around 12,000 fishermen and 5,400 fishing vessels.  

Photo courtesy of oksana.perkins/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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