NSAC and NWWAC have issued their joint advice on the Evaluation of Directive 97/70/EC
The North Sea Advisory Council and the North Western Waters Advisory Council have issued their joint advice on the Evaluation of Directive 97/70/EC on harmonised safety regime for fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over.
The advice was approved by the NSAC and NWWAC Executive Committee on 11 May 2023 via written procedure. The paper contains one minority position.
The Council Directive 97/70/EC of 11 December 1997 setting up a harmonised safety regime for fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over, calls for the implementation of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels 1977. The evaluation report on implementation was to be published by end of 2021. The related public consultation runs from 22 December 2022 to 16 March 2023, after which an evaluation report will be published.
In November 2021, the NSAC and the NWWAC set up a joint focus group on the social aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy. Within this focus group, the ACs agreed to jointly contribute to the consultation on the Evaluation of Directive 97/70/EC in the form of a joint advice paper. This advice aims, based on the survey questions and focus group discussions, to flag particular areas and issues that in our view deserve further consideration in a potential revision of the Directive. The advice was developed in collaboration with the social partners of the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the sea fisheries sector.
As part of their advice to the Commission, the Advisory Councils found that the Council Directive falls short of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974, in force since 25 May 1980. SOLAS generally applies to merchant shipping, not to fishing, however, the Chapter V on safety of navigation does also apply to fishing.
They also suggest that the scope of the Directive 97/70/EC should be extended to smaller vessels as they found that many sea-fishing accidents occur on and with fishing vessels of less than 24 metres in length, which represents 80% of the fleet.
The joint advice states:
“The NSAC and the NWWAC note that at least since 1977, it has become clear that many sea-fishing accidents occur on and with fishing vessels less than 24 meters in length, which represent some 80% of the EU fleet. It is therefore legitimate to consider whether the scope of the Directive 97/70/EC should be extended to smaller vessels. Furthermore, the SOLAS Convention has been updated almost yearly and is therefore much more up-to-date than the Directive 97/70/EC. The question arises whether the Directive should be aligned with the SOLAS Convention where possible and justified.”
The joint advice does however recognise that safety management in fisheries does need improving, which is lacking in the SOLAS Convention but therough tis own initiative The FISH Platform is currently finalising a Fishing Safety Management Code.
The AC’s found that Based on the presentation of the Danish Fishermen’s Occupational Health Services, considered to be a leading expert in fishing vessel safety, the NSAC and the NWWAC identified the following useful practical examples:
▪ Establishment of an entity such as the Danish Occupational Health Services on national and regional level ensuring the development and maintenance of safety culture through counselling, assistance in safety-related issues, risk assessments, providing support in case of incidents, raising awareness on accident prevention etc.
▪ Production of publications, reports and other communication and visual materials on vessel safety matters (examples can be found here: https://www.f-a.dk/english);
▪ Development of educational and awareness raising campaigns, such as the Danish “safe start on a new job” and “safety for one-man operated fishing vessels”.
▪ Establishment of reporting culture and ensuring systematic data collection. For example, the Danish Project “Safety in the Danish fishing industry” showed that the proportion of occupational injuries depends on how long the fisherman was employed on a particular vessel. Over 52.4 % of reported injuries involved fishermen who have worked less than one year on the vessel. 31.7 % of the reported injuries involved fishermen who’ve worked between 1 and 5 years. This shows that the risk of workrelated injuries decreases, the more experience the fisherman has on the vessel.
▪ Fostering a culture of open discussion on vessel safety practices.
▪ Establishing regular workplace (risk) assessment, which can be a vital tool for new crew members.
▪ Establishment of a Safety Management System: a web-based system for conducting workplace assessments, maintenance and control of the medical boxes, crew and their qualifications, equipment and survey, drills, safety meetings etc.
A general view of the AC members regarding the dedicated survey for the Evaluation of Directive 97/70/EC on harmonised safety regime for fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over was that the questions were too general and that without a proper baseline and data it was difficult to assess its efficacy and effectiveness. This also in view of the fact that several EU countries have ratified different instruments and it was therefore difficult to determine whether any safety and health improvements stemmed from the Directive or other international instruments. The members were requested to fill out the questionnaire individually, however, for the respective ACs it was agreed that a joint advice paper calling for consideration of different aspects of the directive was more suitable.
Based on the above and in view of the fact that the EU should set the highest standards when it comes to vessels safety globally, the NSAC and the NWWAC propose to revise the Directive 97/70/EC and include the following aspects:
▪ Further develop science and technology in relation to fishing vessel safety;
▪ Include smaller fishing vessels (0-12 m, 12-24 m); ▪ Consider alignment with SOLAS where possible and justified;
▪ Address stability deficiency issues;
▪ Consider introduction of a Fishing Safety Management Code;
▪ Provisions on education and training of crew concerning fishing vessel safety procedures, in addition to STWC-F convention;
▪ Improve data collection in relation to fishing accidents, particularly on underlying drivers;
▪ Consider ways of strengthening compliance with AIS-operating requirements.
▪ Improve accident reporting tools at national and EU level and foster a culture of dutiful reporting;
▪ Develop actions and campaigns for awareness-raising in relation to vessel safety procedures;
▪ On national and regional level consider establishing entities to foster the development and maintenance of a safety culture through counselling, assistance in safety-related issues, risk assessments, providing support in case of incidents, raising awareness on accident prevention etc.
▪ Encourage the production of publications, reports and other communication and visual materials on vessel safety matters;
▪ Develop educational and awareness-raising campaigns on various vessel safety topics and considerations;
▪ Establish a dutiful reporting culture and ensure systematic data collection on fishing accidents;
▪ Improve the culture of open discussion on vessel safety practices.
▪ Conduct regular workplace (risk) assessments, especially for and with new crew members;
▪ Establish a Safety Management System: a web- system for conducting workplace assessments, maintenance and control of the medical boxes, crew and their qualifications, equipment and survey, drills, safety meetings etc.
▪ Foster an exchange of best practices on vessel safety procedures and technologies in the EU and internationally.
▪ Use EMFAF possibilities to finance any safety-related vessel adaptations or awareness-raising campaigns.