Canadian Underwriter

TSB calls for mandatory emergency position indicating radio beacons on fishing boats

March 16, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reiterated this week a 16-year-old recommendation that the federal government require emergency position indicating radio beacons or similar devices for certain small fishing vessels.

In an investigation report released in 2000, TSB recommended that Transport Canada “require small fishing vessels engaging in coastal voyages to carry an emergency position indicating radio beacon or other appropriate equipment that floats free, automatically activates, alerts the search and rescue system and provides position updates and homing-in capabilities.”

That recommendation is “still active,” TSB said Tuesday in a tweet.

TSB, a separate organization from Transport Canada, investigates accidents and incidents in railways, pipelines, aviation and marine.

Commercial fishing safety is on TSB’s watch list, released Oct. 31, 2016.

“Several recent investigations into fatal accidents have found a range of safety deficiencies-vessel stability, crew training, unsafe operating practices, emergency preparedness, and carriage of immersion suits and emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs)-that once addressed would reduce those risks,” TSB said this past October.

The recommendation to mandate EPIRBs on small fishing vessels engaging in coastal voyages was made in a report into a fatal accident involving the scallop dragger Brier Mist Nov. 27, 1998. The Brier Mist was crossing the St. Lawrence River between Les Escoumins and Rimouski, Que.

The vessel “was sailing in a 25-knot north-west wind and seas broke on the deck at such a rate that the vessel was unable to clear the water,” TSB said in 2000 in its report. “Water was able to enter through a gap between the two panels covering the main hatch.”

The remains of two of the crew members were found while the other three were presumed dead.

One finding TSB made as to risk was that the Brier Mist “did not carry an emergency position indicating radio beacon which, if operated, would alert the search and rescue system and provide ongoing information with respect to the vessel’s position.”

In March, 2016, TSB noted that proposed Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations “would extend the requirement to carry an EPIRB on fishing vessels,” but small fishing vessels would have the choice of alternate life-saving equipment other than an EPRIB.

One alternative would be life rafts and recovery boats that could carry everyone on board. Another would be a means of two-way radio communication plus enough immersion suits for everyone on board if the water is less than 15 Celsius.

But those alternatives “do not have a means to float free, for automatically alerting search and rescue authorities, and for homing-in capabilities,” TSB said.


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