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Saturday 3 February 2024

Potentially good news! Medical Exemption – Existing Fishers on Vessels of 10 Metres and Under

Here is a summary of the MCA's review of the ML5 medical requirement published last week.

Review of ML5 for Under10m vessels

The consultation seeks your views on the Secretary of State potentially exercising the exemption power within Regulation 14 of The Merchant Shipping (Work in Fishing Convention) (Medical Certification) Regulations 2018 with respect to existing fishers working on vessels of 10 metres and under.

Your views are sought in respect of the proposed exemption. An explanation of the areas for consideration can be found in Section 2 of this document.

Deadline for responses 1.4. Responses are welcomed from 16 January to 27 February 2024.

Following the conclusion of this consultation and consideration of the feedback, a final decision with regard to publishing the exemption will be made.

Areas for consideration

The ILO 188 Work in Fishing Convention sets the basic standards of decent work in the fishing industry, the objective of this Convention is to ensure that all fishers, regardless of employment status, have decent conditions of work on board fishing vessels.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has conducted stakeholder engagement as part of a post implementation review of the 2018 Regulations. However there has been recognition of the particular impacts that the Medical Certification requirements are having on fishers working on the smallest vessels.

Regulation 14 allows for the Secretary of State to grant exemptions to the requirement to hold Medical Certification. Before granting such exemptions the Secretary of State must consult such persons as representing persons engaged in the fishing industry as appear appropriate and take into account the safety and health of fishers, the size of the vessel, the availability of medical assistance and evacuation, the duration of the voyage, the area of operation and type of fishing operation.

A “Grandfather rights” provision exists whereby, for fishers who were working as fishers prior to the Regulations coming into force (i.e. prior to 30 November 2018) and who do not meet the requisite medial standards, Approved Doctors can consider whether they are safely able to continue working despite not meeting the medical standards. This provision did still require the fishers to go through the medical assessment.

Even with this “Grandfather rights” provision stakeholder feedback has raised the proportionality of the medical requirements for existing fishers. This is particularly relevant to the fleet of fishing vessels of 10 metres and under in length as the majority of these vessels predominantly work close to shore for less than 72 hours and are therefore closer to medical assistance and evacuation – meaning that any medical issues arising can be more easily addressed. In addition, the types of fishing operation undertaken from small vessels can be less physically demanding.

Notwithstanding the medical standards, the skipper has a responsibility for the safety of crew on board the Vessel and the safe operation of the Vessel, and is therefore expected to “manage crew in a manner which respects safety and health” (section of The Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Fishing Vessels) which could include making appropriate arrangements for those with significant known medical conditions.

Therefore the application of the medical standards to those that have already been working on these vessels is being reviewed, and the Secretary of State is considering providing an exemption.

For the purpose of this exemption, existing fishers will be those that were working on fishing vessels of 10 metres and under in length for 4 weeks or more during the period 30 November 2022 and 29 November 2023. This criteria means that fishers that are not currently working due to the entry into force of the Medical Certification requirements are able to access the exemption.

Fishers should be able to demonstrate they were working on a relevant fishing vessel via one of the following means; appropriately dated evidence of completion of SEAFISH Basic Health and Safety assessment, or Sea Service Testimonials e.g. from skippers/the fishing vessel owners/managers, or if you are the owner of the vessel, the registration document for the vessel including fishing vessel number, and your name on the document as the owner, or other relevant evidence.

Existing Fishers meeting the above criteria that do not engage in fishing on fishing vessels of 10 metres and under in length for a period of 5 years will no longer be eligible for this exemption.

Regulation 14 requires that the exemption must be in writing and a Merchant Shipping Notice is considered an appropriate means to fulfil this requirement.

Anyone may respond to this consultation and consideration will be given to all responses. We are particularly interested to hear from fishers and operators of fishing vessels affected by the Regulations.

This consultation is open for 6 weeks from 16 January 2024. The deadline for responses is 27 February 2024.

Submitting your response:

The preference is for consultation responses to be emailed to medical@mcga.gov.uk. 

Any questions should also be sent to this email address. You can also send your response to: Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Spring Place, (Attention: Seafarer Safety and Health Team, Bay 2/17), 105 Commercial Road, Southampton SO15 1EG.

The role of your PO:

When responding, it would be very helpful if representative groups could give a summary of the people and organisations they represent, and where relevant who else they have consulted in reaching their conclusions.