Recently, the Coast Guard in Alaska terminated three fishing vessel voyages, one for not having emergency flares, and two for not having other necessary safety gear on board. All commercial fishing vessels are required by law to have safety gear and a crew trained in how to use it.
Briefly, depending on vessel and crew size and working distance from shore, each fishing vessel is required to carry personal flotation devices (PDFs), emersion suits, and/or survival craft; lifesaving rings; distress signals like flares, flags, and smoke signals; an electronic position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB); and fire fighting equipment. All this equipment must be maintained and tested as specified. For the requirements pertaining to your fishing vessel, check out 46 CFR 28.100 – 165.
The Coast Guard continues to conduct free dockside safely inspections, free of penalties. If there are discrepancies, they will provide a list of what you need to do to correct them. Vessels passing inspection receive a safety decal to display. The dockside safety inspection is voluntary until October 16, 2015, when it becomes mandatory. The Coast Guard can conduct at-sea inspections at their own discretion, and the 46 CFR 28 requirements must be met or the voyage is terminated and remains terminated until the problems are rectified. To request a voluntary dockside safety inspection, please click here.
Commercial fishing continues to be among the most hazardous jobs in the U.S., and any work at sea and in weather involves risk, but we can make good decisions about safety to offset the risks. Being prepared on a seaworthy vessel will go a long way toward getting your crew mates, your haul, and yourself back to shore, SAFELY.