In February, 38 Northern Irish fishermen took part in Man-Overboard (MOB) Awareness and Recovery training at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.

This free training, funded by the Trinity House Maritime Charity, is part of the work by the Fishing Industry Safety Group to reduce the number of preventable deaths in the industry.

Sessions are currently being delivered by Seafish in partnership with the RNLI for fishermen across the UK.

This challenging and physically demanding course is run over two days. It includes a classroom-based introduction which outlines the reasons behind the initiative and the purpose of the training. Fishermen then take part in a gruelling session in the environmental pool, where they are put through several MOB scenarios.

This training, led by Frankie Horne, the RNLI’s commercial fishing safety manager, and Dave Colmer of the RNLI Water Safety Team, has had continued success in raising awareness and changing attitudes and behaviours towards wearing PFDs at sea.

In order to keep the experience relevant to a real-life situation, fishermen wear their everyday work clothes and wellies, underneath oilskins. Once suited and booted, they enter the environmental pool without a PFD, and tread water for as long as they can.

Participants therefore experience the early onset of swim failure and appreciate just how quickly they require assistance should they go overboard without a PFD. All of this is practised in a safe and controlled environment, with qualified lifeguards in the water.

The next jump into the pool replicates the same scenario, but this time the participant is wearing a 150N/275N PFD. Immediately the lifejacket inflates and keeps their head above water, with their airways clear, while also leaving their hands free.

Wearing the lifejackets, the participants perform tasks relating to MOB situations. This includes climbing up a rope ladder or tyres to get out of the pool, and climbing into a liferaft – while the pool’s fans and sprinklers replicate sea and weather conditions.

The responses from the fishermen who attended this event were unanimous, with everyone now agreeing that PFDs are an essential piece of kit. Skipper Bobby McBride from Kilkeel, who has been working at sea for 35 years and is also a member of the RNLI, said: “This is the most eye-opening and beneficial course relating to personal and crew safety I have ever done.”

Spaces are still available on upcoming courses at East Coast College, Lowestoft on 1, 2 and 3 March, Fleetwood Nautical Campus on 11 and 12 March, and Survivex in Aberdeen on 10, 11 and 12 May.

Contact: to book. The course is free, and costs to attend can be reimbursed.

The Fishing Industry Safety Group’s website here has more advice on safety at sea, including man-overboard situations.

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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