Efforts to increase global fishing vessel safety have received a boost with France becoming the ninth State to ratify IMO’s Cape Town Agreement. The treaty covers various important safety requirements including radio communications, life-saving appliances and arrangements, emergency procedures, musters and drills.
The Cape Town Agreement will enter into force 12 months after it has been ratified by 22 States which, collectively, have 3,600 or more fishing vessels of at least 24 metres in length operating on the high seas.
The Torremolimos International Convention for the Safety of Shipping Vessels
The 1977 Convention was the first-ever international convention on the safety of fishing vessels, recognising the great differences in design and operation between these vessels and other types of ships. While other vessels load cargo in port, fishing vessels sail empty and load their cargo at sea. The Convention included safety requirements for the construction and equipment of new, decked, seagoing fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over, including those vessels also processing their catch.
In the 1980s, it became clear that the 1977 Torremolinos Convention was unlikely to enter into force, largely for technical reasons. So, the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol was adopted in April 1993, to update, amend and absorb the parent Convention. In the 2000s, IMO began reviewing the options available to tackle the lack of sufficient ratifications to bring this treaty into force. In 2012, a new agreement was adopted.
Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1993 Protocol relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977
A diplomatic conference held in October 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa, adopted the “Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1993 Protocol relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977”.
In ratifying the agreement, Parties agree to amendments to the provisions of the 1993 Protocol, so that they can come into force as soon as possible thereafter.
The Cape Town Agreement of 2012 will enter into force 12 months after the date on which not less than 22 States the aggregate number of whose fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over operating on the high seas is not less than 3,600 have expressed their consent to be bound by it.
The Cape Town Agreement of 2012 updates and amends a number of provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol, including the following:
Unless expressly provided otherwise, the provisions apply to new vessels.
With regards to the implementation of certain provisions, Administrations may, in accordance with a plan, progressively implement the provisions of chapter IX (Radiocommunications) over a period of no more than 10 years; and the provisions of chapters VII (Life-saving appliances and arrangements), VIII (Emergency procedures, musters and drills) and X (Shipborne navigational equipment and arrangements) over a period of no more than five years.
The Cape Town Agreement of 2012 allows for Administrations to exempt any vessel entitled to fly its flag from any of the requirements of this annex if it considers that the application is unreasonable and impracticable in view of the type of vessel, the weather conditions and the absence of general navigational hazards, provided:
(a) the vessel complies with safety requirements which, in the opinion of that Administration, are adequate for the service for which it is intended and are such as to ensure the overall safety of the vessel and persons on board;
(b) the vessel is operating solely in:
(i) a common fishing zone established in adjoining marine areas under the jurisdiction of neighbouring States which have established that zone, in respect of vessels entitled to fly their flags, only to the extent and under the conditions that those States agree, in accordance with international law, to establish in this regard; or
(ii) the exclusive economic zone of the State of the flag it is entitled to fly, or, if that State has not established such a zone, in an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea of that State determined by that State in accordance with international law and extending not more than 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured; or
(iii) the exclusive economic zone, a marine area under the jurisdiction of another State, or a common fishing zone, in accordance with an agreement between the States concerned in accordance with international law, only to the extent and under the conditions that those States agree to establish in this regard; and
(c) the Administration notifies the Secretary-General of the terms and conditions on which the exemption is granted under this paragraph.
The International Fishing Vessel Safety Certificate is amended to state it is issued under the provisions of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977.
The conference adopted the following resolutions:
Conference Resolution 1 Early implementation of the Agreement – urges States to become a Party to the Agreement as soon as possible to facilitate its early entry into force and cooperate with each other to achieve this end; and invites States to initiate action in accordance with the Agreement without awaiting its entry into force.
Conference Resolution 2 Avoidance of a situation in which two conflicting treaty regimes are operational – declares that, for purposes of introducing international regulations for the safety of fishing vessels, the Agreement replaces and supersedes the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol and therefore: States should not ratify or otherwise express their consent to be bound by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol and should instead become a Party to the Agreement; and States which have already expressed their consent to be bound by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol should take appropriate steps to signify their consent to be bound by the Agreement.
Conference Resolution 3 Promotion of technical co-operation and provision of technical assistance – urges States to provide, or arrange to provide, in cooperation with the Organization, assistance to those States which have difficulty in meeting the requirements of the Agreement and which request such assistance; and requests the Organization to intensify its efforts to provide States with the assistance they may need in implementing the Agreement and to make adequate provision for that purpose within its Integrated Technical Co operation Programme.
Conference Resolution 4 Preparation of a consolidated text – requests the Secretary-General of IMO to prepare a consolidated text based on: the Agreement; the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977; and the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels,1977; in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, for submission to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval, and then distribute certified copies.
Conference Resolution 5 Procedure for calculating the number of fishing vessels of each Contracting State by the Depositary – requests the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) to develop a procedure for calculating the number of fishing vessels of each Contracting State by the Depositary at the earliest opportunity, but not later than 1 January 2014.
Conference Resolution 6 Expression of appreciation to the host Government – expresses its profound gratitude and thanks to the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa for their valuable contribution to the success of the Conference; and decides to designate the Agreement adopted by the Conference as the “Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the 1993 Protocol relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977”.
Fishing vessel safety code and voluntary guidelines: IMO has developed, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), a number of non-mandatory instruments. These include the FAO/ILO/IMO Document for Guidance on Fishermen’s Training and Certification and the revised Code of Safety for Fishermen and Fishing Vessels, 2005, and the Voluntary Guidelines for the Design, Construction and Equipment of Small Fishing Vessels, 2005.