Calling all commercial fishermen: Changes coming! Mandatory dockside safety exams to be completed by Oct. 15

Dan Hardin, Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District, explains the CFVS decal commercial fishing vessel operators will receive after satisfactorily completing a dockside examination, Oct. 9, 2015. Beginning this year, dockside exams are required for all commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond 3 miles of the territorial sea baseline and must be completed by Oct. 15, 2015.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Dan Hardin, Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District, explains the CFVS decal commercial fishing vessel operators will receive after satisfactorily completing a dockside examination, Oct. 9, 2015. Beginning this year, dockside exams are required for all commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond 3 miles of the territorial sea baseline and must be completed by Oct. 15, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Written by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

In the last decade, 545 men and women left for work on a commercial fishing vessel and never returned. They never celebrated another birthday, never again hugged their loved ones, never walked their daughters down the aisle.

“Hazardous bars, severe weather and the use of heavy gear make commercial fishing one of the deadliest industries in the nation,” said Dan Hardin, Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Program coordinator for the Coast Guard 13th District. “But it doesn’t have to be.”

For years, the Coast Guard CFVS program has mitigated the risks of commercial fishing by offering voluntary dockside examinations prior to fishing season. Beginning Oct. 15, these previously voluntary exams will be required for all commercial fishing vessels that operate beyond 3 miles of the territorial sea baseline.

During the exams, examiners check fishing vessels for number and condition of cold-weather immersion suits, survival crafts, emergency position-indicating radio beacons, watertight integrity, vessel stability and other required safety equipment in a process that is often thought of as search and rescue prevention.

Commercial fishing vessel operators can use the CFVS Checklist Generator at www.fishsafewest.info to create a custom checklist of safety requirements for their vessel. The checklist includes specific information for each required item and will give fishermen a greater chance of passing the exam the first time.

Upon passing the examination, operators will receive a CFVS decal for their vessel that will expire two years after issuance. The dockside exam, however, is only required once every five years.

“Vessels with a valid decal can expect to see shorter boarding times at sea,” said Hardin. “Operators with decals that have expired can expect boarding officers to conduct a more extensive examination of the vessel’s required safety equipment.”

Fishing vessels that carry NOAA national marine fisheries services observers are required to have a valid decal at all times.

After Oct. 15, vessels boarded at sea that have not had a dockside exam will be given a warning and required to get a mandatory exam within 30 days by contacting their local fishing vessel examiner at port.

For more information, to generate a checklist for your vessel and to schedule your exam, visit www.fishsafewest.info. If you have any questions, contact Dan Hardin at 206-220-7226

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