The latest instalment of the Fathom podcast, produced by the Cornish FPO with support from The Seafarers’ Charity, is now available for download.

It deals with the thorny issue of the ML5 medical, and takes the form of a discussion between Charles Blyth, risk, safety and training lead for the NFFO and Julie Carlton, the MCA’s seafarer health and safety lead.

There was not a huge amount of comfort for many listeners in the discussions. However, the MCA did reiterate that ‘BMI is not a pass or fail’; rather, this is a trigger point for further steps in the process, that may well still lead to the issue of a certificate, even if it comes with certain restrictions.

The MCA expected ‘between 15% and 30%’ of all medical exams to result in referrals, the podcast heard, but it has no figures on the numbers of fishermen who have taken exams to date – and won’t have them, as those passing the ML5 are under no obligation to share certification with the MCA.

There was no firm answer either, to a question about penalties for fisherman found not to have a certificate after 30 November. Julie Carlton mentioned a ‘whole range of options’ available to enforcement officers, which were not specified.

The overall message during the discussion, from both speakers, was to ‘talk early’ to either body if you have concerns, and most importantly, to be in the system by 30 November, to guarantee that grandfather rights are available to you.

One question posed at the end of the discussion was about any data the MCA may have on the impact on fishermen’s welfare that may result from failure of certification and resultant loss of employment. The short answer is that there is none. It is more a case of: it will be evaluated as and when it happens. This is not an answer to warm the hearts of many concerned fishermen.

You can listen to the podcast by searching for Fathom on any online service, or through the CFPO website.

We can only welcome the willingness of the MCA to participate in a discussion on an issue that continues to be of concern to large swathes of the fishing industry, and look forward to an update closer to the 30 November deadline – with, we hope, some firmer and clearer answers to the questions from people anxious about their future employment at sea.

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 £3.50 here

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