Are you familiar with ILO 188 - otherwise known as the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention of 2007? Fishing vessel owners, skippers and crews may not have heard of it yet, but- it's something they will have to become familiar with fairly quickly. New Regulations (The Merchant Shipping (Work in Fishing Convention) Regulations 2018) have been laid before Parliament, with the majority coming into force on 31 December 2018 - which give effect to ILO 188 in the UK. MCA Guidance is awaited, although some information is available on the consultation page on its website.

In launching its consultation on the subject last year, MCA said that the measures would address all aspects of living and working conditions on fishing vessels, including decent crew accommodation, work agreements, medical fitness of seafarers and medical care on board. Regular payment of wages or payment of another type in accordance with the fisherman's work agreement would also be required. It's also anticipated that implementation of the ILO 188 would give a framework for protecting all fishermen, regardless of their employment status.

There is already a similar precedent for seafarers in merchant shipping in the ILO's Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (known as MLC) which came into effect in the UK in 2014. MCA believes that this is making a difference in improving the working lives of seafarers worldwide.

The UK's 2018 Regulations cover a number of areas including

  • health and safety;
  • minimum age for fishermen;
  • fishermen's work agreements (these apply to employees and share fishermen alike, and must be in writing, include certain provisions, and be signed by both parties) drafts of which were published with the consultation;
  • payments to fishermen;
  • repatriation;
  • crew accommodation, food and complaints;
  • insurance, and
  • medical care (which does not come into effect until 30 November 2019)

The Regulations apply to UK fishing vessels, wherever they may be operating, and to fishing vessels which are not UK fishing vessels, while that ship is in UK waters.

MCA inspectors are given power to go on board fishing vessels and inspect the vessel, its equipment, any articles on it and any documentation carried on it. They have power to issue improvement notices. Significantly, failure by the fishing vessel owners and the skipper to comply with the new Regulations is an offence _ at least 12 new offences have been created. It will be a defence for a person charged to show that they had taken all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the provision concerned. The proper completion and maintenance of all relevant documentation is therefore crucial to such a defence.

The implementation of ILO 188 should help provide uniformity and benefit the health, safety and welfare of all those working in the industry.