Changes coming for safety in the Fishing Industry


Human Rights at Sea, alongside a number of key government and industry stakeholders including The Fishermen’s Mission, have been working in support of the UK response to the implementation of ILO 188 (2007) ‘Work in Fishing Convention’ and the proposed voluntary safety management code to be adopted by the UK fishing industry. The focus for the charity has been the explicit inclusion of welfare and human rights provisions in forthcoming legislation and the planned Safety Folder.



Changes ahead to safety in fishing

[Reproduced with permission]

UK, 24th July 2017

As part of the preparation for the implementation of ILO C188, the first meeting of a special Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG) to develop a voluntary safety management code was held at the NFFO office in York.

The UK’s federations proposed the development of a voluntary safety management system (SMS) to help co-ordinate the preparation of the ILO C188 Work in Fishing Convention due early next year. The Convention will apply to every fisherman and owner in the UK with requirements for the first time on items such as medicals, crew agreements and safety management.

David Dickens, Chief Executive at the Fishermen’s Mission stated; “The Fishermen’s Mission welcomes ILO C188 particularly for the focus on appropriate terms and conditions for those working in the UK fishing industry which it is hoped will improve the overall welfare ‘offer’ and reduce deprivation and suffering.”

The FISG Project Group will develop a Safety Management System that can be self audited, and as all owners and crews will need to make significant changes to their current practices, the code will ensure that the UK’s fishermen will have the support of an organised and structured system to help make the necessary changes required.

David Fenner, Head of Fishing Safety at MCA said; “ILO C188 is perhaps the biggest change to safety that the Industry has encountered in a generation. Because of this MCA and Industry have been working together to ensure any legislation and guidance is practical and realistic. Most of all however, it must be as straightforward as possible to comply. By developing a Safety Management System, we aim to help fishermen do this.”

The introduction of similar codes in the Merchant Navy and for domestic commercial vessels have reduced accidents significantly. Development of a safety management code for fishing vessels will hopefully mirror the benefits of these existing codes, but may also benefit from learning from the burden imposed by them also.

“We see no value in increasing paperwork, we want to focus on increasing safety and welfare. At every stage we will be ensuring that actions speak louder than words in safety, but with any process there will be paperwork, but this will hopefully be helpful to the owners and crews,” said NFFO safety officer Robert Greenwood.

The project involves maritime charities the Fishermen’s Mission and Human Rights at Sea, both of which are known for their welfare and human rights support, advice and contributions to the industry as well as the ILO C188 preparations.

Typically, the work of FISG has been around the materials of fishing, such as machinery, vessels and PFDs but the Convention will affect the way people work and the project seeks to get a clear understanding of all the complexities of law and will focus on delivering what is right for the individuals involved.

“The addition of explicit reference to the need for welfare support and associated policies in terms of both legislative inclusion and action points for formal auditing under FISG’s lead as part of the Safety Management System, is a key improvement that should not be under-estimated,” said David Hammond, CEO of Human Rights at Sea.

This SMS will give every fishing vessel owner in the UK the support needed to help them become compliant with the ILO C188 changes by February 2018. Two UK-wide schemes, the Responsible Fishing Scheme and the free website are already involved in this project to ensure that they can align with the SMS. The Safety Folder has already started to trial its SMS with Sea Source in Northern Ireland, and will be discussing it with the Welsh Fisherman’s Safety Committee in August.

“For our fishermen in Wales and hopefully the rest of the UK, the SafetyFolder is a great way to deliver the ILO C188 requirements in a staged and sensible manner,” commented Trevor Jones, Safety Officer for the Welsh Fisherman’s Association.




The ILO C188 Work in Fishing Convention, due to be implemented in the UK early in 2018, it was delayed from being implemented on the International ratification date of 16th November 2017 due to the Spring Election.

C188 was agreed by the ILO in 2007 with the aim of improving the conditions of work for fishermen worldwide. It comprises 54 Articles covering minimum requirements for working on board fishing vessels, conditions of service, accommodation and food, medical care, health protection and social security.

An ILO C188 work group set up by the MCA engaged the UK’s fishing federations, the Fishermen’s Mission and Nautilus (a maritime trade union) to help the MCA draft legislation for its implementation in the UK. This is ready to go out to consultation soon. is a website of the NFFO with SFF and WFA support, further information about the site can be found at

The RFS was developed by Seafish to enable the skippers of RFS certified vessels to demonstrate their compliance with industry best practice, and gives the supply chain confidence that the seafood they are sourcing from RFS vessels is responsibly harvested. As such assurance is increasingly being sought by the supply chain, the RFS provides a unique and essential tool—complementing other fishery-based certifications and contributing to the seafood sector’s long term viability. 


Robert Greenwood

Safety and Training Officer NFFO & Chairman, FISG Safety Management System Project Group

M:      07876547343




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