FISHERMEN in Wales are being given grants to purchase safety equipment that will soon become mandatory on commercial vessels.
The International Labour Organisation: Work in Fishing Convention (ILO 188) is expected become law this year, requiring fishermen to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) with integrated Personal Location Beacons (PLBs).
To help fishermen meet the cost, the Welsh government is subsidising the devices so crew pay £15 for each PFD instead of more than £350.
The Welsh Fishing Safety Committee, an industry forum of fishermen’s associations in Wales, is urging its members to take advantage of the offer.
The use of PLBs (or equivalent) will also become mandatory for small fishing vessels in October 2019 under the Small Fishing Vessel Code of Practice (MSN 1871).
Fishing is the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the UK. However, the majority of fishermen still choose not to wear a PFD while working.
With the incoming new legislation and advancements in the wearability of PFDs, it is hoped that Welsh fishermen will lead the way in the UK by making the most of this part-funded opportunity and wearing the equipment at all times while working on deck.
Greg Phillpot, chair of the Welsh Fishing Safety Committee, said: ‘We identified falling overboard and drowning as the most common cause of death on fishing boats in Welsh waters.
‘This equipment will address that directly, providing flotation and the ability to raise a distress call with the beacon providing their location, even whilst working alone.’
Dr Holly Whiteley, Seafish Wales manager, said: ‘We know from a recent behavioural study conducted by Harvard University why over 95 per cent of UK fishermen aren’t wearing PFDs; they are seen as cumbersome and unnecessary.
‘However, the new PFDs are more compact, comfortable and easy to wear. The reality is that you are five times more likely to survive an overboard incident when wearing a PFD.
‘If the new legislation comes into force as expected, wearing one will no longer be a choice – it will be mandatory.
‘With both pieces of equipment together costing around £350, the financial implications will be significant, especially if you’re buying for an entire crew.
‘I would strongly advise vessel owners in Wales to take advantage of this opportunity to access a PDF with integrated PLB for only £15 each now before the application deadline closes on May 31, 2018.’
The funding for the safety devices includes £105,000 from the Welsh government as well as support from the Seafarers UK charity.
Owners of active, Welsh registered commercial fishing vessels can apply for a grant aided PFD with integrated PLB by visiting http://www.seafish.org/part-funded-pfds-with-plbs and downloading the application form. Forms can also be requested directly from Seafish by calling 0131 524 8602.