“This Agreement, once fully ratified, in force and implemented, will be an internationally binding agreement which will facilitate better control of fishing vessel safety by flag, port and coastal States. It will also contribute to the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing,” said Ms Sandra Allnutt, Head of Maritime Technology in IMO’s Maritime Safety Division.

The Cape Town Agreement was adopted at an international conference held in South Africa in 2012, as a means to bring into effect the provisions of the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 States, with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it. To date, seven countries have ratified the Cape Town Agreement: Congo, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and South Africa. Between them, they have an aggregate of 884 fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over operating on the high seas.

Although SOLAS has been in force for decades for commercial shipping industry, the key instrument applicable to fishing vessels is still not in force. This means there are no mandatory international requirements for stability and associated seaworthiness, life-saving appliances, communications equipment or fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction.  

“Implementation of the fishing vessel safety provisions is long overdue,” Ms Allnutt said. “So we have been running a series of seminars around the world to explain what the Cape Town Agreement is, why it is important, how it can be implemented into national legislation and what the next steps are for a Party to the Agreement.”

This year's Cape Town Regional Seminar was attended by participants from 10 countries in the Africa Anglophone region. It followed similar events, organized by IMO in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The push to promote the Cape Town Agreement has been given extra momentum by the entry into force of related treaties under the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the FAO.

ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (Convention No. 188) enters into force on 16 November 2017. It sets minimum requirements for work on board including hours of rest, food, minimum age and repatriation. 

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III), meeting in September 2017, recently agreed a number of proposals to address IUU fishing, focusing on key areas of vessel identification; flag and port state performance; training and implementation of relevant instruments; and environmental issues. 

The IMO Assembly, meeting in November 2017, is expected to adopt a resolution to extend the IMO ship identification number scheme, on a voluntary basis, to all fishing vessels more than 12 metres in length authorized to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag State. This move is expected to contribute to the maintenance of a global record on registered fishing vessels.

IMO is also undertaking a comprehensive review of its treaty on training of fishing vessel personnel, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995, which entered into force in 2012. The aim is to update and revise the treaty, taking into account the unique nature of the fishing industry, the fishing working environment and the need to prevent damage to the marine environment.