Small fishing vessel safety

Commercial fishing can be dangerous. The risks are reduced when a qualified, well-trained crew operates a vessel that is designed, equipped, and maintained according to established rules and procedures.

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What’s new for fishing vessel safety?

New Inspection of Small Fishing Vessels of more than 15 Gross Tonnage subject to the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations are coming into force on July 13, 2017.

Phase one of amendments to regulations governing fishing vessels is now complete. The new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette Part II on July 13, 2016, and will come into force one year from that date.

Transport Canada has developed an education and awareness component to the compliance and inspection approach for the coming into force of the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations, for more details, please visit: Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations – Inspection, Compliance and Enforcement Fact Sheet.

For important information, please have a look at the ship safety bulletin that was issued on the Regulations.

What you need to know about the new safety regulations

  1. The new regulations amend the previous Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations. The regulations apply to Canadian fishing vessels that are not more than 24.4 m in length and not more than 150 gross tonnage.
  2. The new regulations repeal or modify certain sections of the previous Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations, and introduce new sections. They set out new requirements for safety equipment, safe operating procedures and vessel stability. For a complete list of the requirements, please refer to the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations.
  3. TC has developed the guidelines on adequate stability and major modifications/change in activity that support Phase 1 of the Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations in collaboration with the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation, which represent more than 10 000 fish harvesters in Canada.
  4. The new regulations set out new requirements regarding stability assessments including the posting of a stability notice on board. Any time an assessment is performed on any vessel, a stability notice shall be prepared.
  5. Under certain conditions, the new regulations may allow for an exemption of the vessel stability assessment requirements for a population of similar small fishing vessels, e.g. built in a series or that are otherwise similar within an acceptable range.
  6. Transport Canada will provide more information about these new regulations shortly, so stay tuned. If you have any questions, please contact your local or regional Transport Canada office.

Please note: Transport Canada is developing Phase two and Phase three of the regulations governing fishing vessels. Phase two will update the current construction requirements for small fishing vessels while phase three will introduce the requirements of the International Maritime Organization Cape Town Agreement (with appropriate Canadian modifications) for large fishing vessels.

Please consult the Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC) webpage for the latest information on these future phases.

The Large Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations remain in force and unchanged, until further notice.

Regulations are the minimum level of safety

Transport Canada consults with the fishing industry to develop regulations that provide a minimum level of safety for a vessel, its crew and operations.

Regulations affecting small fishing vessels include:

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 makes vessel owners responsible for understanding the regulatory requirements that apply to their operation, and for making sure their operations comply at all times.

Owners are also responsible for developing procedures for safe operation, for emergencies, and for making sure crew members receive safety training.

Remember: safety is a shared responsibility.

Safety training pays off

Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigations have found that in an emergency, crew safety largely depends on the capability and reliability of survival equipment and the crew’s ability to use it.

Crews who are familiar with their vessel’s survival gear are better able to respond to an emergency.

The TSB found that the regular practice of survival drills was a “major factor in the crew’s survival,” as stated in TSB Investigation Report M98N006 (Atlantic Prize).

The Marine Personnel Regulations (Section 206) make fishing vessel masters responsible for ensuring that before taking part in a voyage, each crew member becomes familiar with the:

  • the vessel’s shipboard equipment
  • the vessel’s operational instructions
  • assigned duties, and can perform them effectively when they are vital to ensure safety or to prevent or reduce pollution

The master is also responsible for keeping a training record that includes the names of each person who received training, details of the subject matter of the training, and the dates of training.

The Small Fishing Vessel Safety Manual, is available on line or from your local Transport Canada Centre. It contains basic safety information that all crew members should know and follow.

Addressing known safety risks

Four out of five deaths on fishing vessels are related to stability (capsizing, foundering, sinking), or to falling overboard. To reduce the risk of accidents and deaths:

  • Wear a personal flotation device when on deck
  • Keep a record of vessel modifications
  • Assess the impact that vessel modifications will have on your vessel’s stability before you make them

Learn about vessel stability

The links below contain guidance on fishing vessel stability:

Related links

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