IMO Pushes for Ratification of Cape Town Agreement

IMO said this key instrument applicable to fishing vessels is still not in force. This means there are no mandatory international requirements for stability and seaworthiness, life-saving appliances, communications equipment, or fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction.

The International Maritime Organization is pushing for ratification of a fishing vessel safety treaty known as the Cape Town Agreement of 2012. Sandra Allnutt, head of Maritime Technology in IMO's Maritime Safety Division, participated in an Oct. 15-20 regional seminar in Cape Town, South Africa, to promote ratification of the treaty, saying it will enhance safety and also help fight against illegal fishing.

"We want to reduce loss of life in one of the most dangerous professions in the world, and we want to enhance safety on board fishing vessels," she said, according to a report posted on the IMO website. "This agreement, once fully ratified, in force, and implemented, will be an internationally binding agreement which will facilitate better control of fishing vessel safety by flag, port and coastal states. It will also contribute to the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing."

The Cape Town Agreement was adopted at an international conference held in South Africa in 2012 as a way to bring into effect the provisions of the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, which was later modified by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. In ratifying the 2012 agreement, parties agree to amendments to the provisions of the 1993 Protocol so that they can come into force as soon as possible thereafter. The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 states with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of at least 24 meters in length operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it. To date, seven countries have ratified the agreement: Congo, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, and South Africa, which have a combined 884 fishing vessels of sufficient length operating on the high seas.

IMO said international treaties such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea have been in force for decades for commercial shipping industry, including cargo and passenger ships, but this key instrument applicable to fishing vessels is still not in force. This means there are no mandatory international requirements for stability and seaworthiness, life-saving appliances, communications equipment, or fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction. "Implementation of the fishing vessel safety provisions is long overdue," Allnutt said, "so we have been running a series of seminars around the world to explain what the Cape Town Agreement is, why it is important, how it can be implemented into national legislation, and what the next steps are for a Party to the Agreement."

More seminars are planned to be held in 2018.

Also, ILO's Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) enters into force on Nov. 16, 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board, including hours of rest, food, minimum age, and repatriation. And the IMO Assembly, meeting in November 2017, is expected to adopt a resolution to extend the IMO ship identification number scheme, on a voluntary basis, to fishing vessels of 100 gross tons or more of non-steel construction and all motorized inboard fishing vessels of less than 100 gross tonnage, down to a size limit of 12 meters in length overall, authorized to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag state. This move is expected to contribute to the fight against illegal fishing and to the implementation of the FAO Global Record of Fishing Vessels, Refrigerated Transport Vessels and Supply Vessels.

IMO also is doing a comprehensive review of its treaty on training of fishing vessel personnel, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995, which entered into force in 2012. The aim is to update and revise the treaty, taking into account the unique nature of the fishing industry, the fishing working environment, and the need to prevent damage to the marine environment.

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