The recommendations referred to by the Deputy are contained in a report published by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB, on 28 May 2007. The report relates to the tragic capsizing and sinking of the fishing vessel the Rising Sun in fishing grounds off the County Wexford coast on 29 November 2005, with the loss of two lives. I convey again my sympathies to the families on their tragic loss.
The Department has examined the MCIB recommendations with a view to addressing any shortcomings in either the statutory basis of the regimes covering fishing vessels or enforcement arrangements. With regard to recommendation 8.2 to which the Deputy referred, surveys of fishing vessels less than 15 m long are carried out on behalf of the Department of Transport by an approved panel of surveyors. The Department updated and renewed this panel in 2007, during which year it interviewed applicant surveyors.
As part of the interview process, applicants were required to show an understanding of the importance of informing the fishing vessel owners of the necessity to immediately notify the surveying authority of any alterations in equipment or structure or the intended use of their vessel. Recommendation 8.3 makes reference to the declaration of compliance, recommending that this should include a report of the type of fishing equipment fitted at the time of the survey of the vessel and the intended purpose of the vessel. The declaration of compliance is contained in an annex to the code of practice in respect of fishing vessels less than 15 m.
The Department published the code of practice for the design, construction and equipment of small fishing vessels in 2004. The code sets minimum standards of safety for the vessel to protect all persons on board. It covers vessel design, construction, machinery, safety equipment and stability issues. In 2007 the emphasis was on bringing in safety regulations covering 15-24 m vessels where previously there had been no regulatory regime. The code for vessels under 15 m is being reviewed and both recommendations, 8.2 and 8.3, will be fully covered in any amendments or improvements to the declaration of compliance.
The Department has implemented a comprehensive regulatory framework for fishing vessels to ensure a higher level of safety. This is being achieved through an approach that separates the fleet into three categories. The first is less than 15 m in length and would include the Rising Sun, where a non-statutory code of practice is in operation; the other two are 15 to 24 m and over 24 m and in both cases there is now a statutory regime in place. Fishing vessel safety must rely not only on the introduction of regulations but on compliance with them. This, in turn, may require not only specific training but also an increasingly rigorous enforcement regime.