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New Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations Coming into Force

07/12/2017

Click here to read the latest Transport Canada document on NEW fishing vessel safety regulations. 

Transport Canada (TC) has introduced new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations that apply to fishing vessels that are not more than 24.4 m in length and not more than 150 gross tonnage.  These regulations include new requirements for vessel stability, new carriage requirements for lifesaving equipment, and all vessels are expected to implement written safety procedures.  The new regulations amend the previous Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations and come into force on July 13, 2017.  The following is a link to the federal government website outlining the new regulations: www.canada.ca/fishing-vessel-safety .

It is TC’s responsibility to effectively communicate the new safety regulations, to develop and communicate national standards to achieve compliance, and to engage with fishing organizations on a regional basis to ensure harvesters have the time, skills and resources to become compliant. 

For more than a year now, the NL-FHSA and other harvester organizations across the country have been calling on TC to develop a comprehensive and timely implementation plan to assist the commercial fishing industry to effectively comply with the new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations.  This is yet to be achieved.   As a result, harvesters will be forced into non-compliance and bear the full liability.

In an effort to resolve industry’s significant concerns, the NL-FHSA, FFAW/Unifor, and the PFHCB recently met with Minister Garneau and NL Members of Parliament to request a meaningful solution.  Our message continues to be that a regulatory framework is not enough.  Rather, a strategic implementation plan to accompany the new regulations is critical.

A meaningful solution involves:

  • effectively communicating the new requirements to all fish harvesters;
  •  outlining TC’s expectations for compliance; and
  • providing harvesters with the education, resources and time to get it right.

A comprehensive implementation plan from TC would provide just that.  Otherwise, it may become an exercise in liability and paper safety only. Harvesters deserve more, as do their families.

No doubt, the magnitude of effort necessary to effectively communicate the new requirements and achieve successful compliance across the country will be significant.  In NL alone there are approximately 3700 fishing enterprises, more than 9000 registered fish harvesters, and some 6000 vessels.  Each vessel is considered a workplace, and subject to regulation.

This workforce is spread over 400 communities across the province.  For perspective, the island of Newfoundland covers 111,390 square kilometres.  With the vast territory of Labrador, the province covers a total area of 405,212 square kilometres and has more than 29,000 kilometres of coastline - an area that rivals the size of the three maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island combined.  Ensuring commercial fish harvesters are properly informed and compliant will require a massive investment of time, resources and financial commitment.

NL fish harvesters have a history of demonstrating commitment to safety and are currently the most compliant in the country with TC Regulations.  This is most evident in their investment in training, and life saving equipment onboard their vessels over the last two decades.   All harvesters need and deserve an effective strategy that gives them the time and resources to become compliant with these new regulations.  The NL- FHSA Safety Association and other industry organizations across the country are ready to engage with TC on the development of a strategy.

There is nothing more important than returning home safely to family at the end of each fishing trip.  If implemented properly, these new safety regulations represent a significant opportunity to build on the safety culture that has been developing over the past couple of decades.  They are the logical next step to advancing safety in the fishing industry, particularly in the area of prevention.  When properly implemented, these regulations will improve safety practises onboard fishing vessels and save lives.

A regulatory framework outlining minimum requirements to advance safety is welcomed. However, it is well established that a regulatory framework alone is insufficient to make real advances in safety. Harvesters need a reasonable implementation plan that provides both the time to understand the new regulatory requirements and to attain the skills and resources to be successful.  While all the new requirements will take time to successfully implement, the development and implementation of written safety procedures will be particularly onerous. Harvesters are known as professional authorities in the art of commercial fishing. However, they are yet to be properly resourced in hazard assessment and safety procedure development and implementation.

Thus, the Safety Association will continue to strongly advocate for the development of a proper TC industry implementation plan to maximize the full potential of these new safety regulations.

Transport Canada Regulatory Highlights

In an effort to ensure you are aware of the new regulations, please see the information below.

https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-fishing-vessels-small-menu-292.htm

www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/inspection-compliance-enforcement-fact-sheet.html

Written Safety Procedures - new and existing fishing vessels. 

As of July 2017, the fishing vessel’s Authorized Representative is responsible to ensure the creation, implementation and maintenance of written safety procedures for all crewmembers onboard each fishing vessel.  Transport Canada is requiring the safety procedures to be established in writing, in English or French or in both, according to the needs of the crew, and put in place to familiarize persons onboard on how to safely operate the vessel and deal with emergencies.  Transport Canada is requiring owner/operators to ensure each crewmember is familiar and demonstrates competency with the shipboard equipment and operational instructions specific to the vessel and their assigned duties including:

  • the location of all safety equipment, and how to use it;
  • all measures to protect persons onboard, including to:
    • prevent persons from falling overboard
    • retrieve persons who have fallen overboard
    • protect limbs from rotating equipment
    • avoid ropes, docking lines, nets, and other fishing equipment that may pose a safety hazard;
  • in the case of beam trawling and purse seining operations, how to quickly release loads that can be activated in an emergency;
  • all measures to prevent fires and explosions on the vessel;
  • if the vessel has a deck or deck structure, all measures they must take to maintain watertightness and weathertightness, and prevent interior spaces of the hull from flooding; or, if the vessel has no deck or deck structure, measures they must take to prevent the vessel from swamping;
  • all measures they must take to ensure safe loading, stowage, and unloading of fish catches, baits, and consumables; and
  • how to operate towing and lifting equipment, and measures they must take to prevent overloading the vessel.

Masters and Authorized Representatives must also ensure that drills on the safety procedures are held as often as necessary to ensure the crew is proficient in carrying out the procedures at all times.  Written records are to be kept of every drill for seven years.

Safety Equipment - new and existing fishing vessels.

The safety equipment requirements are determined by the vessel’s hull length, operation, and type of voyage.  Personal life-saving appliances and visual signals are required for all small fishing vessels according to their hull length. Different requirements apply to small fishing vessels that have a hull length of more than 6 m, more than 6 m but not more than 9 m, more than 9 m but not more than 12 m, more than 12 m but not more than 15 m, and more than 15 m.

Life rafts and other life-saving appliances on small fishing vessels are required according to the class of voyage and hull length, and provide a range of life saving appliance choices.

The requirements for firefighting equipment are based on vessel hull length.  Different requirements apply to small fishing vessels that have a hull length of not more than 6 m, more than 6 m but not more than 9 m, more than 9 m but not more than 15 m, and more than 15 m.

Vessel Stability – new and existing fishing vessels.

As of July 13, 2017, the following fishing vessels must successfully undergo a stability assessment by a competent person:

  • A vessel that has a hull length of more than 9 m whose construction was started or that a contract was signed for the construction after July 13, 2018;
  • A vessel constructed on any date that has a hull length of more than 9 m and that has undergone a major modification or a change in activity that is likely to adversely affect its stability after July 13, 2017.
  • A vessel constructed on any date of any length fitted with an anti-roll tank at any time.

As of July 13, 2017, a fishing vessel that is not required to undergo a stability assessment by a competent person shall have adequate stability to safely carry out the vessel’s intended operations.

Transport Canada will consider a fishing vessel that the previous Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations did not require to undergo a stability assessment, but has undergone one before July 13, 2017, as meeting the new requirement to have adequate stability if the assessment was approved by Transport Canada, is up-to-date, and accurately reflects the vessel’s configuration and activities.

A fishing vessel of closed construction, more than 15 gross tonnage and used for catching herring or capelin during the period beginning on July 6, 1977 and ending on July 13, 2017 will still need a stability assessment as per the previous Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations. Transport Canada will consider a stability assessment conducted during that period as continuing to meet the requirement if the assessment was approved by Transport Canada, is up-to-date, and accurately reflects the configuration and activities of the vessel

The stability of a fishing vessel that has a hull length of not more than 6 m and its construction was started or that a contract was signed for the construction after July 13, 2018, shall conform to the standards for buoyancy, flotation and stability that are set out in Section 4 of TP 1332- Construction Standards for Small Vessels

The stability of a fishing vessel that has a hull length of more than 6 m but not more than 9 m and its construction was started or that a contract was signed for the construction after July 13, 2018, shall conform to the recommended practices and standards that are appropriate to the type of vessel and that take into account its intended operations.

* These highlights are excerpts or summaries of the new Regulations.  The full regulatory requirements can be found on Government of Canada’s website by following the above links.  The information is not meant to replace the Regulations. In case of disparities with the Regulations, the Regulations prevail.

For more information please contact the NL-FHSA, or your local Transport Canada office.