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A New Organization - IFO - Could Boost Fishing Vessel Safety

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By Abdelkhalik Kamal Eldin Soliman Selmy 12-29-2019 07:12:19

Although the IMO, ILO and FAO support and promote ratification and implementation of the Cape Town Agreement (2012) to enhance fishing vessel safety and reduce the loss of life, the fishing profession is still considered one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The number of fishing vessels in the world is estimated at about 4.6 million. Most of them are small vessels, while 64,000 fishing vessels of 24 meters in length and over operate in marine waters.

The problem is that the number of fishers is 40 million, and the number of seafarers is 1.4 million, while the estimated number of fatalities and missing per year from 1995 to 2017 is 24,000 fishers and 292 of seafarers. This is because international safety conventions for seafarers have come into force for a long time, and the application of safety regulations and the inspection on foreign merchant ships has become strict by the port state control. 

On the other hand, the most important safety agreements for fishers have not yet entered into force, even the agreements that have entered into force in a few countries have only been for a short period. In addition, the majority of fishing vessels sail and sail back to the same local port. Few of them sail to foreign ports. There is a weakness in fishers' social, economic, education, training, awareness and culture compared to other professions, especially in developing countries. 

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There are delay in the implementation of international safety rules that apply to fishers and their entry into force despite the cooperation between FAO, IMO, and ILO to improve the marine safety of fishing vessels. The deep and complex fisheries problems cannot be resolved by a few meetings held over long periods without agreements being signed. There is also a lack of conferences addressing the issues. Between 1990 to 2018, only five international conferences for fishers safety were held (IFISH 1 to IFISH 5). 

Fisheries management is often covered in the sub-management of several bodies, institutions, organizations, associations, and the coordination between them is weak, whether nationally or internationally. So all fisheries management bodies need to merge into in one specialized organization for safety, training, social and economic fishers' affairs. This article recommends establishing a new expert organization "International Fisheries Organization" (IFO) that aims to improve the safety of fishing vessels and to reduce the loss of life at sea as the IMO has done for seafarers.

Captain Abdelkhalik Kamal Eldin Soliman Selmy is a Lecturer at the Maritime Transport Technology Department of the Arab Academy for Science and Technology & Maritime Transport.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.