Consultation: Compulsory “float-free” distress beacons for commercial fishing boats?

12 April 2017

Consultation begins tomorrow (April 13) on changes to six maritime rules, including one that would make automatic “float-free” emergency position indicating radio beacons, EPIRB distress beacons, compulsory for more commercial fishing boats.

Maritime NZ Director, Keith Manch, said this proposal comes from Coroners’ and Transport Accident Investigation Commission recommendations to make fishing boats safer.

The recommendations followed the death of 24 people when seven inshore fishing boats sank over 11 years. Manually operated distress beacons were carried on board these ships but it appears the crew did not have time to activate them.

Currently, fishing boats operating more than 200 nautical miles from New Zealand’s coast must have distress beacons that automatically float-free of a sinking vessel and activate. Fishing boats operating within 200 nautical miles must have either automatic or manual distress beacons.

The proposed change would apply to fishing boats of between 6 metres and 24 metres operating outside enclosed waters (i.e. outside harbours, estuaries and other inland or sheltered waters).

There are about 570 fishing boats of that type, though it is unknown how many already have float-free distress beacons and how many have manual distress beacons. In total, more than 1,500 commercial fishing boats operate from New Zealand.

Other proposed changes

The other five proposed changes to maritime rules apply to various types of vessels, and remove outdated requirements, allow for new technology, and reduce compliance costs. They are:

  • Tugs: allow use of current international stability criteria set by “classification societies” for towing operations
  • Fishing boats: allow new satellite search and rescue technology as an alternative to radar transponders on fishing vessels operating beyond 200 nautical miles from the coast
  • Fishing boats: remove the requirement for fishing boats operating in some areas to carry a radio with narrow-band printing – this is an old technology replaced by modern radio systems
  • Sailing vessels: allowing for modern design, and removing the requirement that manual bilge pumps must be operable from above the deck
  • Commercial vessels: remove the requirement that vessels built before 2014 must meet a 2014 standard for electrical installations. However, significant electrical work done from 2014 must comply with the 2014 standard.

Consultation documents will be available from 3pm tomorrow (April 13).

Submissions are due by 5pm, 14 May 2017.

See the consultation

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