Bulletin No.: 04/2006

PDF Version

RDIMS No.: 1539035
Date (Y-M-D): 2006-03-17

Subject: Safety of Small Fishing Vessels: Information to Owners/Masters about Stability Booklets


This bulletin sets out the process for determining whether a small fishing vessel requires a stability booklet and what to do it if does. Transport Canada's requirement for stability booklets establishes an interim measure in anticipation of the new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations that are to come into force in 2007, and provides a standard interpretation of Section 48 of the current requirements, the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations.

As stability is important for all vessels, this bulletin applies to all owners and operators of fishing vessels, new and existing, that are between 15 and 150 gross tons, or not more than 24.4 metres in length. All masters/owners are strongly encouraged to obtain stability booklets if their vessels have any of the risk factors identified by the Stability Information Questionnaire attached as Appendix A.

For vessels that are more than 15 gross tons and that have any of the risk factors, Transport Canada will check that a stability booklet is on board before issuing an inspection certificate.

Vessels that require a stability booklet as a result of this bulletin and have a certificate that is about to expire may be given up to twelve months of grace to obtain a stability booklet by use of a short-term certificate.


Stability is a fundamental safety aspect for any vessel. To keep a vessel stable it requires a design fit for its intended purpose, an understanding of the vessel's operating limits, and knowledge of how to operate the vessel within those limits.

It is the master's responsibility to know and stay within the limits of safe operation for the vessel and it is the owner's responsibility to support the master in doing so. 

A working knowledge of a vessel's limits can be developed over time by observing how it handles in different conditions. For smaller vessels, this may be all that's necessary, but to really understand a vessel's safe operating capabilities, a test is needed. Results of this test can then be used to calculate the vessel's ability to right itself under different loading conditions. A stability booklet, prepared using a vessel's design and operating characteristics, sets out the steps to follow in order to carry the maximum load safely.

Section 29 of the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations requires a stability booklet if a vessel is used to catch capelin or herring. Additionally, Section 48 of the same Regulations permits an inspector to request any tests necessary to verify a vessel's seaworthiness. In addition vessels fishing for capelin or herring, Transport Canada has identified a number of risk criteria that can negatively affect stability. With this bulletin, Transport Canada has established a nationally consistent baseline for applying Section 48 and requires that a stability booklet be on board all vessels that have any of these risk factors. If your vessel has one of the risk factors, but does not have a stability booklet, the vessel's certificate may not be issued.


Immediately -- Complete the Stability Information Questionnaire in Appendix A. If your vessel has any of the characteristics in Sections 3 or 4 of the questionnaire, and you do not have a stability booklet, or if modifications that affect your vessel's stability negatively have been made since the booklet was prepared, you will need to have a booklet prepared or update the existing one. If you are in doubt, contact a marine consultant.

Stability booklets are prepared by naval architects using the criteria in STAB 1 and STAB 4 of the Stability, Subdivision and Load Line Standards ( TP 7301) and, if the vessel has a significant amount of area exposed to the wind relative to its dimensions, Section 4.2.4 of the International Maritime Organization Code on Intact Stability (or equivalent). To prepare the booklet, the naval architect needs hull particulars taken from vessel plans, the results of an inclining experiment; and information on how the vessel will be used in fishing. If plans are not available, out of water measurements must be taken.

If the booklet is stamped by a professional engineer (P.Eng./Ing.) with naval architecture expertise; or an exclusive surveyor to: American Bureau of Shipping; Lloyd's Register; Det Norske Veritas; Germanischer Lloyd; or Bureau Veritas, Transport Canada need not be directly involved. A copy of the stamped booklet is to be sent to Transport Canada for monitoring purposes. Alternatively, if Transport Canada approves the booklet, as is the case now, a Transport Canada inspector must witness the inclining experiment. The stability booklet will contain typical operational conditions that reduce the potential risk posed to the vessel's stability.

Review the booklet when you receive it with the person who prepared it to ensure you understand it. Use the booklet to guide you when operating the vessel.

During inspection: Before issuing a certificate to a small fishing vessel, Transport Canada will review the Stability Information Questionnaire with the master and have the master sign it to confirm the information is correct and understood. If a stability booklet is required, the inspector will check that the booklet is on board, has a valid stamp and will go through the restrictions with the master.

For more information, please contact your local Transport Canada Centre in the blue pages of your telephone directory.


Having a stability booklet does not guarantee a vessel will not capsize. Whether or not the vessel has a stability booklet, masters must exercise prudence and good seamanship taking into account the season of the year, weather forecasts and the navigational zone and take the appropriate action as to speed and course warranted by the conditions.



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Safety of Small Fishing Vessels: Information to Owners/Masters about Stability Booklets (72 KB) 

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Keywords:                                  Questions concerning this bulletin should be addressed to:

1. Stability booklet
2. Small fishing vessel
3. Risk factor
V.M. Santos-Pedro
Transport Canada
Marine Safety
Tower C, Place de Ville
11th Floor, 330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N8

To add or change your address, contact us at: marinesafety@tc.gc.ca

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