The MMO are wasting public money after a “witch-hunt” of Maritime Systems I-VMS device according to Managing Director, James Glover
£650,000 grant funds wasted due to “witch hunt” by public body claims Maritime Systems boss
The English inshore commercial fishing boat fleet are facing new concerns over regulation and improper use of public funds after the type-approval of compulsory equipment was removed, requiring some of them to stop fishing immediately according to Maritime Systems Managing Director, James Glover.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) requires that by the end of 2023 all commercial fishing boats under 12-metres in length are fitted with an Inshore Vessel Monitoring Systems (I-VMS) to enable the authorities to track fishing locations. Boats operating in Wales and some the Devon area cannot fish without I-VMS due to regulations regarding their locality.
Over the last year, Maritime Systems has installed almost 1000 I-VMS accounting for 95% of all devices sold. The cost of £780 and the fishermen can claim this back in a grant from the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme (FASS).
After the roll out was well underway, the MMO undertook independent testing of the four approved suppliers. The MMO had relied upon the suppliers self-certifying their products during initial approval. According to the Maritime Systems Managing Director, all the devices were found to have issues that caused them to fail the specification for approval.
However, only Maritime Systems has been singled out with revocation of the type approval for their I-VMS device claims James Glover, with two others have been allowed to fix their issues, and one has declined from continuing in the project due to lack of sales.
James Glover states that testing revealed only one failed feature on the Maritime Systems Device, a fault shared by other manufacturers devices, in that when submerged one metre underwater for 30 minutes, a small amount of water worked its way through the outer casing. According to Maritime Systems this is easily rectified.
The Maritime Systems boss says that GMV, the independent tester hired by the MMO, reported that the Maritime Systems device excelled in all other areas tested by them. Their test report shows that one test was voided because of a problem with the device not responding to their test equipment. After consultation with Maritime Systems this issue was resolved, but the test has not been repeated.
James Glover says, “We have concerns with the test report. One of GMV tests states that we need to send a message from the device when we lose mobile phone reception, but this is not possible as there is no mobile phone reception to the send the message on. Also, in the voided GPS reception test that the MMO are holding us accountable for, it was not clear if the issue was within our system or the MMO THEMIS computer system.”
THEMIS is the software used by the MMO to display data collected by the I-VMS devices and is developed by one of the other manufacturers Fulcrum Maritime.
James Glover adds, “At the start of the project, integrating with the UK VMS Hub was challenging due to their outdated software protocols and it was made aware to us that Fulcrum Maritime was able to interface directly with their server. Prior to the GNV testing, in almost a year of operation, the MMO had never made us aware that there may be a problem with the receipt of our status codes regarding the number of GPS satellites.”
Suppliers were originally made aware of the issues in March and asked to provide a proposal on how to rectify their issues. Since submitting its proposal to the MMO in March, Maritime Systems had regularly asked the MMO if they required any more information, but never received a reply, affirmed Glover.
On Thursday 18 May, without consultation, the MMO revoked Maritime Systems Type Approval due to lack of detail in the proposal and was provided 20 hours to submit a new response, stating that it would be a “high bar for us to reconsider the revocation”.
After submission of a more detailed plan, the MMO has upheld the ban, citing only two reasons based upon the wording and descriptions, including that a proposed solution was not evidenced, when Maritime Systems had stated it had been used on military vessels for over eight years.
“This is a clear witch-hunt by senior management at the MMO”, James Glover told his customers, “Other suppliers are allowed to fix their devices, yet the MMO won’t even have a fair discussion with me.”
“During the Teams meeting on Thursday I asked for the meeting to be recorded, as we always do, yet they attempted to talk me out of it, saying that there was nothing contentious expected, yet in the next sentence they revoked our approval leaving me financially ruined.”
“Although I had a right to reply, they released the letter of revocation to industry within minutes of the initial meeting on Thursday ending, meaning I had to deal with information requests from my customers, when I should have been spending the short-time I had preparing a response to the MMO.”
MMO Chief Executive Tom McCormack confirmed that fishers will be financially supported to secure suitable, replacement devices amounting to approximately £650,000 extra funding.
This is funding that could have been spent supporting fishermen at a time when their livelihood is seriously challenged by low fish stocks, Brexit and the cost of living, claims Glover.
“They will be wasting money to replace functioning equipment with devices from alternative suppliers,” says Glover. “Their claims for the removal are farcical, and we could have easily answered their concerns. I am not exaggerating when I say that a 5 minute conversation on Friday would have saved £650,000 of public money and 100’s of hours of civil servants work.”“This is clear abuse of public spending, and not in the public interest. £650,000 is being wasted just because of a personal dislike to me by MMO officials. I have the backing of the fishermen, who all agree this is a farcical position, and clear abuse of the MMO powers. The smaller fishermen are normally ignored as there are not enough of them to get heard. Even front page stories in Fishing News don’t make it to main stream media.”
“I am willing to extend an olive branch to them, if they will reconsider. This is all completely unnecessary. I believed in their good will, and that we were partners in making this project a success.”
The fishing industry is calling for fair regulation with many feeling that they are being forced out of a livelihood by new requirements with MCA vessel surveys and medicals. Fishermen claim to have been told by directly by their MPs that they won’t raise concerns in parliament due to the small number of constituents it affects, says Glover.
The I-VMS rollout continues, although the inshore fishermen are now left with a choice of only two devices, Fulcrum Maritime’s Nemo and Succorfish SC2.
“Questions need to be asked if the MMO is operating with the best use of public funds or are they allowing personal prejudice to prevent the fishermen getting the best deal,” states Glover.
The Fishing Daily contacted the MMO regarding the claims made by the Managing Director of Maritime Systems.
An MMO spokesperson said:
“Four I-VMS devices were originally ‘Type Approved’ by MMO for industry to choose and claim grant support. This process required all suppliers, including Maritime System Ltd, to provide evidence and assurances that their devices met technical specifications, for the reporting of location, heading and speed by under 12 metre fishing vessels.
“All four suppliers did provide evidence at that time and Type Approval was awarded on this basis. Once approved, all device suppliers competed for the sale and install of devices within the fishing fleet.
“Following the start of the roll-out, feedback was received from industry and other third parties, raising concerns regarding device functionality. MMO took immediate action and commissioned the independent testing to provide further assurance for all supplier’s devices.
“We recognise that the current issues with the I-VMS roll-out will be impacting industry confidence and MMO is committed to supporting industry through this process. Whilst there will always be certain technical issues experienced during the introduction of this kind of technical programme, we acknowledge and understand the impact this has had. We are committed to ensuring impacted fishing vessel owners will receive financial support to secure a replacement device.
“It is correct that our immediate focus should be on supporting industry and resolving the issues raised. MMO will be completing full due diligence with the remaining suppliers ahead of roll-out recommencing.”