A campaign to raise awareness among the fishing industry on the importance of calling the coastguard when in difficulty has been launched in Northern Ireland.
To mark Maritime Safety Week which runs until 5 July, stickers and cards with clear instructions on dialling 999 in an emergency situation – whether in open sea or in harbour - are being distributed to all fishing vessels in Northern Ireland.
The idea was put forward by the Northern Ireland Fishermen’s Safety Forum following the tragic death of a fisherman in Kilkeel Harbour in September 2017. An investigation by the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) found that there had been a short delay in calling the emergency services and recommended that a contact card and procedure to enable crew to directly and immediately alert the emergency services when in port be developed.
Fisheries Minister Robert Goodwill visiting the fishing ports of Kilkeel and Ardglass said: “Like everyone else, fishermen have a right to be safe at work, but when accidents do happen it’s crucial to get emergency assistance from the coastguard as soon as possible.
“I hope that this campaign will act as an important reminder that fishermen should call 999 for the coastguard even when accidents happen in port and help prevent a repeat of this tragic incident.”
Lynn Gilmore, Head of Regions and International Trade at Seafish, said: “After this sad incident and the subsequent MAIB report, the safety forum carried out a straw poll around harbours to assess awareness of how to call out the Coastguard and the RNLI. We were surprised to find out that quite a few fishermen didn’t realise that the Coastguard is another emergency service that can be reached by calling 999 so hopefully these stickers and cards make that really clear.
“The NIFSF mission is “Making Fishing Safer Together” and this kind of initiative highlights the positive impact that can be made by working in partnership to tackle local issues and improve safety for our industry.”
The Northern Ireland Fishermen’s Safety Forum (NIFSF) aims to highlight the importance of fishermen's health and safety, as well as develop industry-led initiatives and projects that address the most significant causes of fishing-related loss of life and accidents amongst the Northern Irish fleet.
Local fishing organisations have joined forces with a wide range of agencies including Seafish, the MCA, RNLI, DAERA, the Fishermen's Mission, the NI Fisheries harbour Authority and fishermen's training providers.
Maritime Safety Week is run by the Department of Transport each year to promote safety at sea.