Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), 80%
of accidents on boats are caused by human error and most of
these errors can at some point be attributed to management deficiencies
that create the pre-conditions for accidents. To address
these issues, the following actions must be taken:
• Personnel must be effectively managed to ensure that they have
appropriate training and that they work in accordance with relevant
labour laws and agreed conditions;
• Procedures, methods and systems used on fishing vessels must
be well managed to ensure that they are effective and efficient
and produce the required outcomes;
• All vessel parts (hull, machinery, fishing gear, etc.) must be managed
to ensure they are properly maintained and perform in
accordance with their design capacity.
The solutions for improving fishing vessel safety are thus straightforward:
• safety-oriented management
• well-trained and competent crews
• seaworthy vessels
To ensure the seaworthiness of vessels, there must be standards
in place for their design, method of construction, materials, equipment
and outfit, as well as standards for maintenance and inspection
– in other words, a regulatory system designed to oversee
the fundamentals of safe operation. These standards must be
universally adopted, which requires some type of binding international
agreement. The Torremolinos Convention and its 1993 Protocol
provide the necessary framework.
Just as important as the standards for vessels, there must be standards
for the crew, their training, qualifications and methods of work.
Because fishing is a global industry that operates in open seas and
interacts with other maritime industries, it is also important that common
crew training standards are used, particularly when it comes to
qualification and certification. Those standards must be universally
adopted and recognised. This is the purpose of the Convention on
Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel
Personnel, 1995 (STCW-F Convention).
The Torremolinos Protocol
and STCW-F Convention:
Tools for improved fishing
The Torremolinos Protocol
and STCW-F Convention:
Tools for improved fishing
1977 Torremolinos Convention
and its 1993 Protocol:
The safety of fishing vessels has been a matter of concern for
the IMO since it came into existence. In 1977, the first international
conference on the safety of fishing vessels was held in
Torremolinos, Spain. The conference adopted the Torremolinos
Convention (1977), which established a safety regime for fishing
vessels of more than 24 m. The convention looked at construction
standards and safety-related equipment for fishing
vessels in a similar way to that of the SOLAS Convention for cargo
and passenger vessels. However, it was considered too stringent by
the major fishing nations, and as such, was never ratified.
In 1993, a Protocol to the Convention was adopted (Torremolinos
Protocol). The protocol updates and amends the 1977 convention
taking into account technological advances and the need to take a
pragmatic approach to encourage ratification of the instrument.
The safety provisions of the protocol cover construction, stability,
machinery, fire protection, protection of crew, lifesaving equipment,
emergency procedures, radio communication, navigation equipment,
vessel certification and port state control. Some of the provisions
are restricted to fishing vessels of more than 45 m. At the end of
2006, six states had ratified the protocol. Nine more signatories are
required for it to enter into force.
In an effort to take into account local specificities, some protocol
articles allow national administrations to apply the provisions of the
protocol to certain classes of vessels (e.g. vessels less than 24 m in
length) or to amend some provisions to match local conditions (e.g.
weather conditions and operational features of fishing fleets). The
development of regional standards is also encouraged by IMO, if
they are seen as necessary and practical. Such regional standards
may even be developed, in consultation with IMO, without awaiting
the entry into force of the protocol.
Once adopted, the Torremolinos Protocol will impose a number of
obligations on flag states and national administrations to ensure
their vessels comply with its requirements. In addition to conventional
enforcement measures (surveys and certification), regular
reporting of information (text of laws, reports on casualties and
accidents involving fishing vessels) to IMO will be required. Administrations
will also need to certify each vessel for the purpose of
port state control.
1995 STCW-F Convention:
The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification
and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel
(1995) complements the Torremolinos Protocol by setting
the regulatory framework for the training and certification of
fishing vessel personnel. STCW-F is the “sister” convention
to the 1978 STCW Convention (Training and Certification of
Seafarers), as amended in 1995, with similar provisions. The
convention is the first attempt to make safety standards for
crews of fishing vessels mandatory internationally.
The STCW-F Convention addresses training and certification standards
for skippers and watchkeepers on fishing vessels of more
than 24 m, for engineers on vessels of more than 750 kW and for
crew in charge of radio communication. Importantly, it also requires
basic (pre-sea) safety training for all fishing vessel personnel.
The convention embraces the concept of competency-based
training but does not deal with manning levels.
While the convention specifically relates to large fishing vessels,
the IMO encourages national administrations to address the training
and certification standards for crew of smaller vessels through
relevant domestic laws. As with other IMO instruments, collaboration
between countries, and with IMO, will be possible to facilitate
the implementation of the convention and to help maritime administrations
meet their obligations. For instance, the convention
allows cross-recognition of certificates and training of fishing vessel
personnel on a regional basis.
At the end of 2006, the STCW-F Convention had been ratified by
six states. It will enter into force 12 months after it has been
accepted by 15 countries.
Document for Guidance on Training and
Certification of Fishing Vessel Personnel:
First published in 1985, then thoroughly revised in 2001, the
document combines the conventions and recommendations
adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and
IMO with the wide practical experience of the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the
field of training for fishermen.
The document is aligned with the provisions of the STCW-F Convention
and provides a guide to establishing a framework for
training fishing vessel personnel appropriate to the size and nature
of the fishery (all sizes of fishing vessels are covered). It
addresses issues such as methods of training and assessment
(competency-based training is promoted), content and duration
of training programmes, competences to be assessed, and tutor
experience and qualifications. There is a strong emphasis on
sustainability (FAO Code of Conduct), fatigue management, and
the active involvement of all parties during the development of
How would the Pacific Region cope?
Some of the likely impacts of the Torremolinos Protocol
and 1995 STCW-F Convention on the Pacific Islands were
discussed during a regional seminar held in Fiji in March
2006. The following points were noted:
• The Pacific is well ahead of other regions in that it already
has training and certification standards for fishing
vessel personnel. In the mid 1990s, the Secretariat of the
Pacific Community (SPC) developed a common certification structure
for trading and fishing vessels, which is regularly revised
by a subcommittee of the Pacific Islands Maritime Association
(PacMa). Most Pacific Island countries have adopted it.
• A number of model training programmes for fishing vessel
personnel are available and used throughout the region (e.g.
SPC Safety Certificate, SPC/Pacific Island Qualified Fishing
Deckhand Certificate, etc.). The pre-sea induction training system
used in Papua New Guinea is also aligned with the requirements
of STCW-F for basic pre-sea safety training for all fishing
• While the protocol and convention apply to large fishing vessels
(>24 m), it is possible for national laws to extend their applicability
to smaller classes of vessels.
• National administrations and the regional fishing industry need
to be familiar with the provisions of the protocol and convention
and prepare for their entry into force. The current status
of requirements and standards in the region means that their
effective implementation should be relatively straightforward.
• Due to the current limited number of signatories, ratification of
the protocol and convention by Pacific Island countries could
drive their entry into force.
• SPC could underpin a regional mechanism and be the focal
agency in assisting countries with the implementation of the
protocol and convention.
The introduction of relevant standards for vessel safety and crew
training can only provide a safer working environment, improved
safety, wider employment options and a more sustainable livelihood
for fishing vessel personnel in the Pacific region.
But the change will have a cost for fishing vessel operators (upgrading
of safety systems), training institutions (wider application
of competency-based training and assessment), and national administrations
(certification and surveys). These cost implications
need to be carefully assessed.
SPC and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), through the EU-funded
DEVFISH project, will soon undertake a regional study of these
issues, the results of which will be widely circulated to the fishing
industry and national administrations.
The extent of the safety problem in the
global fishing industry*:
• An average of 24,000 fatalities and 24 million non-fatal
accidents** happen each year in the fishing industry
• The fatality rate in the fishing industry is estimated at
80/100,000 per annum, 79 times higher than the overall
occupational fatality rate
The community nature of much of the world’s fishing activity
and the potentially devastating impact that high injury and
fatality rates can have on fishing communities are also clearly
• In 1995, the total world fishing fleet was about 3.8 million
• About 15 million persons are employed aboard fishing vessels
and about 98% work on vessels less than 24 m in
• The world’s fishing fleet mostly comprises boats that operate
in artisanal fisheries
* Statistics from ILO, IMO and FAO
** Non-fatal injuries are grossly under-reported according to ILO
Milhar Fuazudeen, Technical Officer, Maritime Safety Division, International
Maritime Organization: MFUAZUDE@imo.org
John Hogan, SPC Regional Maritime Programme Coordinator:
Michel Blanc, SPC Nearshore Fisheries Development and Training
Produced by the Coastal Fisheries Programme
of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Printed with financial assistance from the EU-funded DEVFISH project