Government launches wide-ranging Fishing Industry Safety Package

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, with responsibility for maritime safety regulation and emergency response, and Minister for Agriculture Food and Marine, Simon Coveney, with responsibility for the fishing industry, jointly launched a multi-faceted, cross Departmental, Cross Agency safety initiative for the Irish Fishing Industry in Union Hall today.
The initiative is supported by both Departments and their respective agencies and features the following:-

• Provision of Vessel & personal locator beacons.
• A new enhanced Safety Equipment Grant Aid Scheme operated by BIM for the purchase of:
 Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
 Personal Locator Beacons integrated into Personal Flotation Devices (PFD/PLB’s)
 Float Free – self activating Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS)
 Auto Pilot Alarms
 Wireless engine cut offs
• Revised Fishing vessel Code of practice to be tougher and amended to take account of lessons learnt from recent tragedies.
• A New Marine Notice being drafted on use of lifejackets.
• The establishment of a high level working group on safety in the Irish fishing industry.
• A new National Maritime Safety and Emergency Response Strategy to be launched.
• An new enhanced Safety Training Course run by BIM on a five year cycle
Minister Coveney said; “This cross Departmental initiative launched here today is testament to this Governments commitment to improving safety in our fishing fleet. It is about learning from past tragedies, and saving lives in the future.”

Minister Varadkar said: “It is appropriate that the launch of this important maritime safety initiative targeted at the fishing sector is taking place here in Union Hall. Those tragic events of January 2012 left a huge impact on the nation as a whole, and reminded the nation of the dangers of the sea. The first ever national maritime safety strategy announced today is about closing any gaps in services, preventing accidents at sea, and through consultation with stakeholders and the general public, striving to reach a situation where we have no fatalities at sea. The launch of BIM’s scheme backed up with the changes to the Code of Practice and a continued commitment to regulation and compliance with safety standards will help to engrain a culture of ‘safety-first’ on the water.”

Minister Coveney explained “ I am making €800,000 available over the next three years to fund this scheme and aligned with the new excellent enhanced safety training course being rolled out by BIM will focus primarily though not exclusively on operators of small vessels.”

Minister Coveney went on to say “I am also establishing a new high level working group on safety in the fishing industry, to look at all aspects of safety on fishing vessels and to report to Minister Varadkar and myself with recommendations before the end of the year. The new working group will be chaired by Mr John Leech current CEO of Irish Water Safety. Because a common thread of comment in recent times has been the need to pay particular attention on issues surrounding the number of small inshore boats that get into difficulty, I have charged the group with focussing to a large degree on this aspect.”

Minister Varadkar said: “I firmly believe we can and must do more to prevent tragedies such as those we have seen in the recent past. The bottom line is that we can pass any law we like, but if it is not enforced and we do not have a culture of zero tolerance in regard to non-compliance, we will continue to lose loved ones at sea in the coming years.”

To conclude Minister Coveney said: “I am confident that the combined effect of this multi-faceted approach with the full support of both Departments is a major step in the right direction and will achieve results. I know this issue is painful for those who have lost friends and loved ones at sea, however, I hope that they can gain some comfort from the knowledge that something concrete is now being done. The aim is to save lives, we have to see a culture change in our attitudes to safety, and we all have responsibilities in seeing this common held desire become a reality.”

Note for Editors

Key aspects of the package are as follows:

• The use of EPIRBS will be made mandatory over time and included in the revised Fishing Vessel Code of Practice. Grant aid is being made available for float-free, automatically activated EPIRBs for fishing vessels of less than 15 metres. The scheme will be operated by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and cover 60% of the cost of equipment for smaller vessels under 12 metres, and 40% of the cost for larger vessels. This is the single most significant safety enhancement of the scheme announced today. The grants can be used to purchase new units or to retrofit or replace old, manually operated beacons.

• Grants will also be provided for Personal Locator Beacons which will be made mandatory for vessels of 15 metres or less, and included in the Fishing Vessel Code of Practice.

• A third round of grants will be provided for auto-pilot alarm systems, and consideration is being given to making their use mandatory.

• An ongoing safety and equipment training initiative will also be launched and kept under constant review. The new enhanced safety training course run by BIM will be a one day course to be taken by every fisherman every five years throughout their career, it will be a cornerstone of the ongoing safety initiative not only in the use of new equipment but also on bespoke safety procedures.

• The first implementation of the new course will feature instruction on the grant aided Personal Locator Beacons, Integrated Personal Floatation devices with Personal Locator Beacons (PFD-PLBs) and auto-pilot alarms. Future courses will bring fishermen up to date on the latest developments in safety techniques, skills and processes.