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HRAS: Industry leads the way on ILO 188

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l to r: Dave Fenner MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency), Robert Greenwood NFFO (National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations), Daniel Shepherd HRAS (Human Rights as Sea)

The UK’s fishing federations in conjunction with the MCA Fishing Safety ​team have together developed a Fishing Safety Management (FSM) System that will assist fishermen with the imminent implementation of a generational change to fishing safety legislation – the Work in Fishing Convention (ILO 188) aimed at creating a set of common worldwide standards for health, safety and working conditions.

As this Convention is implemented in to UK law in mid-2018 it will introduce new responsibilities for the safety management of fishing vessels, and although the consultation has only just started the federations were determined to be ready to support industry before implementation.

At the launch event at North P&I – Sunderland Marine’s riverside building in Newcastle NFFO safety officer Robert Greenwood said; “Where we can give flexibility to the owners and operators of fishing vessels we should, and this voluntary Fishing Safety Management code allows owners to structure a management system that suits them.”

The FSM Code was proposed by the UK’s Federations to the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG). The ideas was to give early clarity on how the new requirements were to be incorporated into the UK’s diverse range of fishing vessels. By having a simple structure the FSM Code is scalable to vessel size and will make it applicable from the single-handed owner operator to the largest vessels in the UK fleet.

Robert Greenwood said; “While we know that there will be a legal responsibility on the owner to ensure that their vessel or vessels are managed safely, there was also no guidance on what that meant. We felt strongly that industry should lead this agenda rather than leaving it to the MCA, or waiting for a judge to interpret the legislation in response to a potential dispute.”

The FSM Code is voluntary, it is there to structure and support the application of existing legislation and to be future compliant with any eventual changes. The code structure will also provide an auditable system that can help, not only to keep vessels safe but also meet market needs for providing evidence of legal compliance. Trevor Jones of the Welsh Fishermen’s Association said “We are noticing greater demands from the supply chain to demonstrate that UK vessels are compliant with ILO C188 and the Modern Slavery Act. While we believe that the UK is presently one of the best countries in the world for compliance, this code enables us seamlessly to improve upon and provide evidence of our position.”

“Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) welcomes the proactive and far-reaching approach adopted by industry in anticipation of ILO C188 coming into force,” said Daniel Shepherd of HRAS.

“Through the FSM Code, fishing vessel owners have the freedom and flexibility to design a safety management system comprehensive enough to account for the human rights and welfare protections of fishers. In line with ensuring the integrity of their supply chains, some industry members in the Northern Irish fishing sector have already commenced implementation of this process. Recognising the potential vulnerability of certain fishers in their sector, Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO) commissioned research into the provenance and working conditions of non-EEA crew in NI. Mindful that human rights and welfare issues are not isolated to the non-EEA workforce, it is hoped that a similar ‘know and show’ approach will be adopted by vessel owners as part of their management systems and preparations for auditing against ILO C188.”

The FSM Code is published by the MCA as a Marine Information Note (MIN) and while voluntary, it provides all the guidance necessary to help owners to structure their safety management and to self audit. Derek Cardno of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said; “We can see the benefit of encouraging the industry to adopt this code. It puts the catching sector in control of improving safety, making vessels safer, easier to manage, and supporting legislative compliance is good business.”

The Federations have also collaborated on the adoption of the free SafetyFolder.co.uk website to ensure that it continues to be available, suitable and free to all UK fishing vessels. The recently revised site has been developed to be compliant with the FSM code and will continue to develop to ensure that it is ready for the ILO C188 changes. The SafetyFolder is widely being used across the UK at the moment with more than 660 vessels registered and using the site.

The SafetyFolder is compatible with the Responsible Fishing Scheme and other assurance schemes, delivering an easy place to develop the evidence requirements of such schemes.

“It’s the belief of the Safety Folder management team that industry can and will improve its safety record,” Derek Cardno said. “Fishermen with busy lives trying to run a successful businesses in challenging times can manage their vessels safety in an easy and organised way.”

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