The NFFO added its voice to that of the NUTFA last week, asking the MCA to paise the implementation of the ML5 requirements, which are due to come into effect on 1 December.
In an open letter to the MCA last week, NFFO risk, safety and training lead Charles Blyth said: “I am writing to express our deepening frustration and growing concerns regarding the prolonged delays in the post- implementation reviews related to ILO 188 and additionally the U15m Code of Practice. It is disheartening to witness the MCA repeatedly failing to meet their own obligations, while fishermen are held to strict deadlines with unwavering rigidity.
“It is baffling that the MCA considers it acceptable to flout their own regulatory obligations while holding fishermen to a different standard. The glaring disparity in adherence is both unjust and, frankly, indefensible.
“In light of the MCA’s inability to meet its deadlines, I am hereby making a formal request for an extension of the implementation deadline for the inshore fleet. We insist on a level playing field, where regulatory bodies are held accountable to the same standards to which they hold industry stakeholders.
“Furthermore, it is deeply disconcerting to note that, based on the disclosed anticipated timeline, the wealth of invaluable insights and feedback gained through the review process, which predominantly centres around medical assessments, will seemingly not be considered in the implementation of the medical certification requirement. By the time the review is eventually published, it is our concern that irreparable damage may have already been inflicted by the poorly conceived policies currently in place.”
The intervention comes after NUTFA repeatedly contacted the MCA, in similar terms, and also pointing out that the MCA is in fact in breach of three separate legal requirements to report to parliament on the progress of its own legislation.
NUTFA has also made a complaint to the parliamentary ombudsman, where it claims that secretary of state for transport Mark Harper misled parliament in a statement to MPs in July, when he told MPs that the ML5 applied to all seafarers.
NUTFA has now referred the issue to the Crown Prosecution Service, saying: “We are asking the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether the failure to carry out a consultation with the inshore fishing industry, carry out a review, and publish a report following on from the consultation and review, within the timeframe set within the statutory duty and legislative framework, amounts to an abuse of power through ‘wilful neglect’.
NUTFA provided an example of one vessel owner, operating both commercial ferries and fishing vessels in the same port, where from December the ML5 requirement applies to the crew of the fishing boat operating there, but not the crew of the passenger ferry operating in identical waters.
Legal advice to NUTFA also suggests that the legally required ‘consultation’ ahead of introduction of the measures was fundamentally flawed, and failed to meet the minimum legal requirements.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, who has long been outspoken in his support for those fishermen caught up in issues relating to the ML5, told Fishing News: “If ministers and officials cannot abide by their own regulations then it is hard to see why they should hold fishermen to a higher standard. At the very least they should consider a delay in the enforcement of these rules while they get their own house in order.
“Fishermen have been willing to work with the MCA and the government on any number of issues, but too often co-operation goes only one way. We need to see a more respectful and reciprocal relationship between industry and government going forward, or fishermen are going to pay the price.”
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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