Marine insurance specialist Sunderland Marine has been creating easy and approachable ways to communicate the importance of safety on fishing vessels. Rachael Harper spoke to marine underwriting manager Craig McBurnie and loss prevention executive Alvin Forster (pictured above, right, with Craig McBurnie) at the company to find out how.

FN: Sunderland Marine has long been advocating the importance of safety onboard vessels. Can you tell us more about that?

Craig McBurnie: “We more or less see ourselves as part of the fishing industry. We’ve been insuring fishing vessels for 140 years now, which started off in the UK, and it’s still the biggest part of our business. To a certain extent, we follow the fortunes of the fishing industry, and we see the issues that are relevant, and occurrences to the industry as a whole. We’ve always aligned ourselves to safety onboard vessels.

“One of the things we’ve seen in recent years is that it’s been more and more difficult for young people to start a career in the fishing industry, which is why we’ve allied ourselves with various colleges to try and encourage new entrants coming into the industry – and then also to make sure that it’s as safe an environment as possible once they’re actually onboard and working as fishermen.”

FN: Why is it so important for Sunderland Marine to focus on safety?

Craig McBurnie: “There are two reasons. It’s important from our part as an insurer that there are fewer serious injuries, which means less serious claims. That’s the business side of it. But the human element is that serious injuries and deaths at sea can be avoided, often by better training, and by safer working environments. That’s really the message that we want to get across as part of the industry.”

FN: What are the biggest issues currently being faced with regards to maintaining safety onboard vessels?

Craig McBurnie: “Quite often it’s just a lack of education and training that can lead to serious incidents. Unfamiliarity with emergency situations, for instance, which is why drills, such as man-overboard and firefighting, are so important.”

FN: How are you combatting these issues?

Alvin Forster: “A lot of it is just tackling the basics of safety management, which I think has probably been missing in the industry, and making sure that new joiners are properly familiarised with the basics when they come onboard fishing vessels.

“There is a lot of advice and guidance on these subjects, but the problem with them is that they’re generally not written for the right audience. No one’s going to sit down and read a 60-page document full of dry text on the science behind risk assessments. People want quick, practical advice that’s easily at hand, and doesn’t need much explanation. That’s what we aim to provide.”

FN: Can you tell us more about the guides Sunderland Marine has produced?

Alvin Forster: “Probably the biggest guide that we’ve done is the new joiners’ guide. It’s a comic-book-style illustrated story, which is basically mapping out a new joiner’s first day onboard – what can go wrong, what you should be doing, what you can do about it.

“Other than that, on things like risk assessments or carrying out work planning or toolbox talks, we have basically two sides of A4 at the very most – just clear, illustrated guidance. The text is bullet points – simple. None of this complicated terminology that’s often used by risk management companies. We just put in plain layman’s terms.”

FN: What, in your opinion, is the best way to get the safety message across to fishers?

Craig McBurnie: “The best method is still, in my opinion, face to face. There are various exhibitions, and as a company we’re very keen on getting out and about, meeting owners, discussing their issues first-hand, and then reinforcing the message that we get across by other mediums – whether it be the website, or guides that we send out.

“Ongoing discourse is probably the best way forward – to make sure that the industry is aware of what’s available to them, and if there’s any advice that they need, that there’s somewhere they can get it from.”

You can find Sunderland Marine’s safety guides here.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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