Thursday, 3 December 2015

Get your engineers ticket!

THE engineering requirements for the under-16.5m Skipper's Certificates are being beefed up by Seafish, due to the continued high number of incidents caused by engine and machinery failure.

As a result, from January 1, fishermen who require the restricted certificate will have to complete a 2-day engineering course and those who require the unrestricted certificate will have to complete a 30-hour course. This qualification ensures that skippers of these boats are multi-skilled, thereby helping to prevent breakdowns and accidents involving engines and machinery.

Since its launch in 2007, the voluntary Seafish Under 16.5m Skipper's Certificate has proved hugely popular with experienced fishermen. Comprising a number of short courses in watchkeeping, engineering, stability and radio operation and a requiring evidence of appropriate experience, there are two certificates - one restricted for use inside 20nm from a safe haven and the other unrestricted.

To date, more than 1000 fishermen have been issued with the restricted certificates and almost 2000 with unrestricted certificates; a further 4500 fishermen have completed some of the required courses.

Simon Potten, Head of Safety and Training at Seafish, comments: "For a voluntary certificate, this is a remarkable achievement. There is no legal requirement for skippers of fishing vessels less than 16.5m to be qualified, but this demonstrates the responsible attitude of the skippers that have embraced this certificate voluntarily."

Attendance has been helped by the fact that, thanks to funding from a variety of sources (including Seafish, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the European Fisheries Fund), the training has been offered free-of-charge.

Other incentives have been provided by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, which accepts the Under 16.5m Skipper's certificate for use in Small Commercial Vessel Operations, enabling holders to supplement their fishing income by undertaking work in other maritime industries (see Marine Guidance Note No. 411 for details).

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency also accepted the Seafish 5-day Bridge Watchkeeping course (a requirement of the unrestricted certificate) as the minimum qualification for someone to take a navigational watch on larger vessels.

When issued by Seafish, the Under 16.5m Skipper's certificate is valid for five years. Currently holders are only required to re-attend Safety Awareness training and evidence recent experience to revalidate their certificate for a further five years. This may change in future as Seafish is currently developing a more in-depth fishing vessel stability course to address continuing safety concerns.

All holders are encouraged by Seafish to develop their skills and knowledge further and many have gone on to complete more advanced training courses. Funding is currently available to support this, please contact Seafish on 01472 252302 for information.

Anyone who has completed all the training courses currently required has until 31 December 2015 to apply for their Skipper's Certificate before the changes come into effect.