The U.S. Coast Guard is offering free safety exams to all commercial fishing vessels. The program is so fishermen can ensure their boats meet the current fishing regulations before the halibut and sablefish fisheries open in Alaska on Sat., Mar. 23, 2013.
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Although the safety exam is not mandatory, Sitka examiner Steve Ramp says it’s in the best interest of the fishermen to have a safety check done.
“It’s a good program,” said Ramp. “It doesn’t cost fishermen anything. There are no ramifications if they’re short on equipment. We give them 30 days to get their equipment and then we give them their decal after we verify that. There’s no fines involved, no costs involved, and it’s a good way to make sure these fishermen get home to their families after a trip.”
The safety requirements and the length of an exam vary depending on the type of vessel. A large processor has more regulations to meet and might take two hours, while a state-numbered vessel fishing within three miles of shore usually takes about 30 minutes to check.
“The general safety factors are their life raft, their epirb, their immersion suits, fire extinguishers, life rings,” said Ramp. “For the bigger boats that fish offshore, they have to bilge alarms to know if they’re taking on water, they have to have general alarms so if something goes wrong, they can notify the crew. We also require they have their navigational publications, charts, sufficient radios and communication equipment…”
If boats do not meet current regulations, fishermen are subject to fines. And, for extreme violations, the Coast Guard will escort them back to the dock and not let them back out until the problems are fixed.
The safety exam is mandatory for fishermen whose insurance companies require it or if a NOAA fish observer is scheduled to go on a boat because the agency requires a boat to have a current dockside exam.
To know what to expect during the an exam for your vessel, you can call examiner Steve Ramp at 966-5620 to set up a free pre-exam meeting. You can also go to the Coast Guard’s website to generate a custom checklist.