Basic Measures To Avoid Collisions at Sea

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Recent collisions between ship and fishing boats off the Indian coast have triggered demands for the adoption of safety norms for fishermen at sea, says an article published in The Businessline.

More number of boats

Because of the abundance of fish in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal compared with other parts of the world, around 40,000 fishing boats operate in the region. On top of that, 500-1,000 merchant ships daily traverse the area located on the international sea route.

IMO norms enforcement

Charles George, president of the All India Deep Sea Fishers Association, said the norms and protocols framed by the International Maritime Organisation should be enforced strictly for ships plying on Indian waters to stop collisions at sea.

No policy or law?

Though India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, it has neither framed a policy nor made a law for its exclusive economic zone to protect the rights of fishermen, George claimed.

The association’s demand comes in the the tenth incident of collision of a fishing boat with a cargo ship about 600 miles off the coast of Goa in early April on the Indian coast.

Shipping experts opinions

However, shipping experts said changes in the size of merchant ships had made visibility of passing fishing boats difficult, particularly considering the fact that crews on modern ships consist of fewer people than before.

Technology

Technologies such as automated radar systems on ships help detect fishing boats made of steel. But the problem is that many of the boats operating in the region are constructed from wood.

Experts concerns 

Automatic Identification System

The absence of an Automatic Identification System — which transmits a ship’s position to prevent collisions — on many boats has also hindered a thorough probe into the cause of the incident.

Unskilled migrant workers

There is also concern over the deployment of unskilled migrant workers as crew manning fishing boats. Earlier, boats were helmed by fishermen who had a good knowledge of the sea as well as the craft, a shipping industry source said.

Lack of basic safety items

Most fishing boats do not carry something as fundamental as life jackets on board; further most crew members are not aware of how these are to be worn. “The saddest part is that providing basic training, life jackets, rescue floats and a radar reflector will cost less than 10,000 per boat and can easily be provided by the Government, NGOs or other organisations,” the source said.

Need for training

This would be the simplest step to take to ensure that even in the event of a collision, lives will not be lost. “Once that is achieved, we can try and avoid collisions by imparting training and installation of sophisticated navigational and safety equipment on fishing vessels,” the source said.

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Source: The Business Line

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