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Delegates Called on to Ratify Fishing Safety Agreement

11 October 2012

SOUTH AFRICA - Minister of Transport Ben Martins has called on delegates at an international conference to help bring into force an agreement on the safety of fishing vessels, which 30 years on has yet to be ratified.

The 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessel, along with a 1993 protocol updating the agreement, has yet to come into force, leaving tens of thousands of fishermen, who work on vessels of over 24m in length, without any legally binding safety standards.

Addressing a diplomatic conference held by International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the safety of fishing vessels on Tuesday, Martins said until the 1993 Protocol is ratified, an important sector of the international maritime industry would be left without a binding agreement on safety standards.

IMO is a UN agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Before it enters into force, the protocol requires 15 states with at least an aggregate fleet of 14,000 vessels of 24m in length and over, to ratify the protocol.

The protocol has, to date, been ratified by 17 states, but with a collective fishing vessel fleet of about 3,000 vessels.

Martins, who also today accepted the presidency of the IMO conference, said when it is ratified, the agreement would particularly benefit poor fishermen and women who daily looked for a better life and living.

"By reaching agreement, the conference will also demonstrate the continued relevance of the IMO, since the safety of people and property at sea also contributes to food security, economic growth and development across the globe," he stressed.

In the wake of the global economic downturn, he said the maritime industry and its stakeholders had a key role to play in contributing to job creation.

He pointed out that significant progress had already been made in reaching consensus, as the draft document before delegates, already had the broad support of the Maritime Safety Committee.

IMO Secretary-General of the Koji Sekimizu said despite improved technology, the loss of life in the fishing industry remained unacceptably high, underlining the importance of establishing a globally binding safety regime for fishing vessels.

Sekimizu said clearing up outstanding issues around exemptions and entry-into-force requirements were all that stood in the way of bringing the agreement into force.

Some members want the agreement to come into force if it is ratified by 15 states, others if it is ratified by 20 or 30 states, with not less than 1,800 or 3,000 fishing vessels.

Sekimizu said once standards were applied for large fishing vessels of 24m in length and over, he hoped member states would push for mandatory safety standards for smaller fishing vessels.

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