Welsh commercial fishermen urged to take advantage of £15 lifejacket offer

05 April 2018

Owners of active, Welsh-registered commercial fishing vessels are urged to take advantage of an opportunity to access grant aid to purchase Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) with integrated Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) for their crew at a heavily discounted price of £15, saving over £350 per PFD.

The call from the Welsh Fishing Safety Committee, an industry forum of Fisherman's Associations in Wales, comes ahead of this year's expected implementation of the International Labour Organisation: Work in Fishing Convention (ILO 188) into UK Law. The legislation is likely to require commercial fishermen to wear PFDs on deck whilst working at sea unless a written risk assessment demonstrates that they have eliminated the risk of going overboard.

The use of PLBs (or equivalent) will also become mandatory for small fishing vessels in October 2019 under the Small Fishing Vessel Code of Practice (MSN 1871). 

Fishing is the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the UK. However, the majority of fishermen still choose not to wear a PFD while working. With the incoming new legislation and advancements in the wear-ability of PFDs it is hoped that Welsh fishermen will lead the way in the UK by making the most of this part-funded opportunity and wearing the equipment at all times while working on deck.

Dr Holly Whiteley, Seafish Wales Manager said: "We know from a recent behavioural study conducted by Harvard University why over 95% of UK fishermen aren't wearing PFDs; they are seen as cumbersome and unnecessary. However, the new PFDs are more compact, comfortable and easy to wear. The reality is that you are five times more likely to survive an overboard incident when wearing a PFD.

"If the new legislation comes into force as expected, wearing one will no longer be a choice - it will be mandatory.  With both pieces of equipment together costing around £350, the financial implications will be significant, especially if you're buying for an entire crew.  I would strongly advise vessel owners in Wales to take advantage of this opportunity to access a PDF with integrated PLB for only £15 each now before the application deadline closes on 31st May 2018." 

Owners of active, Welsh-registered commercial fishing vessels can apply for a grant-aided PFD with integrated PLB by visiting http://www.seafish.org/part-funded-pfds-with-plbs and downloading the application form. Forms can also be requested directly from Seafish by calling 0131 524 8602.

This opportunity has been made possible by funding received from the Welsh Government and from Seafarers UK, a charity that has been helping people in the maritime community for 100 years and is currently undertaking a nationwide survey of needs within UK fishing communities (see http://www.seafarers.uk/news/fishing-for-a-future-challenges-and-opportunities-facing-uk-fishing-communities-revealed-at-uk-fishing-forum/).

Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: "I was pleased to confirm funding of over £105,000 towards the heavily discounted provision of personal flotation devices and personal locator beacons. As well as saving lives, this vital safety equipment will help fishermen comply with changes in health & safety legislation expected over the next two years.

"I want our fishermen to stay as safe as possible at all times and strongly encourage them to take advantage of this discounted price".

Greg Phillpot, Chair of the Welsh Fishing Safety Committee, said: "We identified falling overboard and drowning as the most common cause of death on fishing boats in Welsh waters. This equipment will address that directly, providing flotation and the ability to raise a distress call with the beacon providing their location, even whilst working alone.

"The fact that we have been able to come together as an industry and work with Seafish and our funders to offer this life saving equipment to fishermen is extremely pleasing and I am grateful that we have been able to make it happen."

Deborah Layde, Grant Director at Seafarers UK said: "The funding provided by Welsh Government and ourselves for this vital project opens the door to Welsh fishermen to enhance safety on-board and prepare for expected new legislation at a vastly reduced cost to vessel owners. Surely this is an offer not to be refused!"