According to Transport Canada, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in Canada due to the conditions in which fishing vessels are operated (type of voyage, weather, etc.). But the regulations governing fishing vessels are more than 40 years old and haven’t kept pace with industry best practices and technological developments. At least until now. Starting July 13, 2017, new fishing vessel safety regulations are set to go into effect.
The primary goal of the new fishing vessel regulations is to help lower the two primary causes of fatalities on commercial fishing vessels as reported by the Transportation Safety Board: stability-related accidents (58% of fatalities) and falling overboard (27% of fatalities). The second objective is to address most of the TSB recommendations for improving maritime safety. The final goal is to ensure Transport Canada’s regulatory regime can adapt to technological changes.
Who’s Impacted: These amendments apply to “small” fishing vessels, that is, those that aren’t more than 24.4 metres in length and aren’t more than 150 gross tonnage. (Small fishing vessels constitute approximately 99% of the fishing fleet in Canada.)
New Requirements: The new regulations repeal or modify certain sections of the prior regulations and set out new requirements for:
Safety equipment. The updated safety equipment provisions require small fishing vessels to have firefighting equipment (such as different types of portable fire extinguishers) and modernized life-saving equipment (such as a life raft, immersion suits and lifebuoys) on board. Personal life-saving appliances are required for all small fishing vessels; the specific requirements vary according to hull length.
Safe operating procedures. The new provisions on safe operating procedures require all small fishing vessels to develop safe operating procedures in writing (in English, in French or in both, according to the needs of the crew). To implement those procedures, the persons on board the fishing vessel must be familiarized with the following:
- Location and use of all safety equipment;
- All measures that must be taken to protect persons on board, including measures to prevent persons from falling overboard; to retrieve persons who have fallen overboard; to protect limbs from rotating equipment; and to avoid ropes, docking lines, nets, and other fishing equipment that may pose a hazard;
- In the case of beam trawling and purse seining operations, the quick release of loads that can be activated in an emergency;
- All measures that must be taken to prevent fires and explosions;
- If the vessel has a deck or deck structure, all measures that must be taken to maintain water-tightness and weather-tightness and to prevent flooding of the interior spaces of the hull or, if the vessel has no deck or deck structure, all the measures that must be taken to prevent swamping of the vessel;
- All the measures that must be taken to ensure safe loading, stowage and unloading of fish catches, baits and consumables; and
- The operation of towing and lifting equipment and the measures that must be taken to prevent overloading of the vessel.
Drills on the safety procedures must be held to ensure that the crew is always proficient in carrying out those procedures. And a record must be kept of every drill.
Vessel stability. There are new requirements for stability testing based on vessel size and whether the vessel is new or not.
A full stability assessment consists of inclining the vessel and developing a stability booklet, which is an essential tool for operators to understand the operational limits of their vessels and load them in a safe manner to avoid the risks associated with swamping, capsizing, foundering and sinking. In a simplified stability assessment, the testing process and documentation produced are simpler and less involved from an engineering perspective, and so the cost is reduced. For specific information on stability testing and the other changes discussed see Regulations Amending the Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations.