The Torremolinos Protocol and STCW-F Convention: Tools for improved fishing vessel safety

The Torremolinos Protocol and STCW-F Convention: Tools for improved fishing vessel safety(see full pdf format)

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

vessel safety

The Torremolinos Protocol

and STCW-F Convention:

Tools for improved fishing

vessel safety

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

training programmes.

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

vessel personnel.

• 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:

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