Today, the European Commission has adopted a report urging EU Member States to ratify the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessels Personnel (STCW-F Convention). This will offer extra protection to fishers, one of the most hazardous professions in Europe.
The STCW-F Convention sets standards of training for personnel on board of fishing vessels and is an important contribution to the promotion of safety at sea. It contains stricter provisions for vessels of 24 meters in length or above, but it also contains important provisions on basic safety training and watch keeping applying to all fishing vessels regardless of their size.
In 2015, Council Decision 2015/799 authorised Member States to ratify the STWC-F Convention in the interest of the European Union, and encouraged them to do so by May 2017. Today, the European Commission adopted a report to the Council reviewing Member States’ progress in the ratification of the STCW-F Convention.
The report shows that only nine EU Member States have become Parties to the STCW-F Convention (Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain).
Ratifying and implementing international standards on safety and working conditions in fishing is of utmost importance to protect the lives of the more than 150 000 fishers in the EU and the livelihoods of their families. Therefore, Member States are encouraged to ratify the STCW-F Convention, without further delay.
Fishing is one of the most hazardous professions in Europe and according to EMSA report on marine casualties and incidents of 2018, almost 60% of the accidents are due to human error.
National regulations on occupational health and safety in fishing, when they exist, vary widely between countries. Moreover, fishing being an international sector, most of its regulatory provisions are set at international level with the aim of creating a level playing field.
Other relevant international conventions applying to the fishing sector are the ILO Work in Fishing Convention, No. 188, setting standards on working conditions; and the IMO Cape Town Agreement of 2012, setting standards on safety of fishing vessels.
Despite their importance, these conventions have been ratified by a very low number of States, both in the European Union and on a global scale. This is all the more striking giving the fact that conventions applying to the maritime transport sector, which include similar provisions to those applying to fishing, have been widely ratified. For instance, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers has been ratified by 164 states globally, including all 28 EU Member States; whereas the STCW-F Convention applying to fishing has only been ratified by 26 States globally, of which only nine are EU Member States.
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