With deadlines to fit new compulsory IVMS terminals rapidly approaching, English under-12m vessel owners were rocked last week when the MMO made a low-key announcement that one of the four type-approved terminals had been removed from the approved list, reports Andy Read.

No reason was given for this on the short announcement posted on the MMO website, which simply said that the Maritime Systems device was suspended from the MMO approved devices list, as it ‘does not meet IVMS specification of requirements’.

The same MMO post also confirmed an extension of the installation deadline for the 10-11.99m sector of the fleet, to the week commencing 28 March.

With many hundreds of terminals already ordered, and the deadline for over-10m vessels looming, the announcement raises a huge number of issues and concerns for under-12m vessel owners.

Many on social media have echoed Fishing News calls for the implementation date to be delayed, particularly for the under-10m fleet. There is now uncertainty as to the ability of any of the other three suppliers to cover the gap left by the delisting of Maritime Systems.

James Glover of Maritime Systems told Fishing News of his surprise at the announcement, saying: “We only heard of the possibility of this late last Wednesday, 16 February, when the MMO requested evidence that we used 4G in all devices.

“This stemmed from concerns raised on social media and elsewhere that we do not use 4G communications in our devices.

“I immediately supplied the requested evidence that proves all our IVMS devices can use both 2G and 4G, and offered to pay for the laboratory if their inspector wants to perform
a random test on any of our equipment after it is installed.

“This was supplied in detail to the MMO the following day, Thursday 17, at 10am. They didn’t respond, but instead went ahead with this announcement.

“I’ve had almost no meaningful contact with them, which is frustrating not just for myself, in an issue that should never have happened, and could have been simply resolved, but also for the many hundreds of fishermen who have signed up with us.

“The next tangible knowledge I had of this, incredibly, came to me not from the MMO itself, but via Fishing News. They forwarded to me a statement they had received, confirming that whilst the company, Maritime Systems, is not suspended as a supplier, the terminal we supply is suspended, pending a decision that will be made as soon as possible, but no later than 9 March.”

One of the fishermen affected, Brian Tupper, who has ordered three of the Maritime Systems units, linked this issue to ongoing problems experienced with another supplier. He told Fishing News: “We have had issues already with one of the other type-approved providers where, in effect, we have lost access to the Devon IFCA area with some of our vessels. One of the permit conditions there is to have a working VMS, and the model we have aboard has had issues.

“Now we see a disconnect between the MMO extension and the IFCA’s own regulations, that they had changed to allow us to use the Maritime Systems kit.

“I can’t comment on how this has happened or any technical reasons, but it does not reflect well on the MMO at all, to spring this on us at such short notice.”

It is understood that Maritime Systems already had 600 confirmed orders, with more expected during the rollout to the smaller vessels. Another of the owners who has ordered a unit from Maritime Systems told Fishing News, on condition of anonymity: “I feel for the guy who has been suspended like this. I already have a refund from him for my own terminal, within 48 hours of contacting him.

“I just have the headache of finding a new supplier and getting fixed within the deadline. The whole thing is just a mess.”

The Welsh government was the first UK administration to make IVMS mandatory for all vessels, regardless of size. It followed a different route to that of the MMO in England, providing a single terminal, free of charge, to all vessels.

Actual costs, per vessel, of this approach, were roughly double those incurred by the MMO, but the rollout appears to have gone much more smoothly. The use of the devices by Welsh vessels, and by all vessels fishing in Welsh waters, become mandatory on 15 February.

A Welsh government spokesperson told Fishing News: “Weather conditions have impacted the number of fishing activities taking place since the order was introduced. However, we have received no reports of any issues with the system.”

Industry sources indicate that the terminal used in Wales has experienced some issues with respect to draining batteries, where suitable breakers have not been installed, but say it is ‘far to early’ to reach conclusions about the success of the system.

Statement on Maritime Systems device from MMO

The full statement from the MMO read: “The Marine Management Organisation has received information indicating that the MS44 IVMS device currently being sold by Maritime Systems Ltd may be different to the device that was approved in November 2021 and may not meet the required specification set out in the published approval process [at: bit.ly/3JKBkpm]. Concern is centred around transmission strengths of the MS44 IVMS device, specifically in regard to its 4G capability.

“The MMO is working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible to help support fishers to make the right IMVS purchase decision for them. We aim to confirm the outcome by no later than 9 March, 2022 (though our engagement with Maritime Systems Ltd may help bring this date forward).

“Pending the outcome of this action, MMO has suspended type-approval status of the MS44 device. Please note this is a suspension of the MS44 IVMS device and not Maritime Systems Ltd, the supplier.

“MMO suggests fishers consider pausing purchase or payments in respect of the MS44 device until this matter is resolved.

“We will continue to keep fishers updated on progress. We appreciate fishers may have specific questions they want to raise on this matter, and ask that enquiries are sent directly to the IVMS mailbox to help us respond as quickly as possible: ivms@marinemanagement.org.uk

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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