Your vessel

It is essential that the vessel’s skipper and all crew are fully familiarised with the vessel and its equipment, including any vessel-specific quirks, prior to departing a berth. A pre-sailing checklist should be completed, including:

  • The operation and maintenance of the fishing equipment.
  • The location and operation of safety equipment, ensuring it is free from obstruction
  • The onboard layout of the spaces such as void spaces, engine room and cargo spaces.
  • The location and operation of key equipment including:
  1. Bilge level alarms
  2. Sea water systems
  3. Hydraulic piping and systems
  4. Freeing ports and pumping systems
  5. Items to ensure watertight integrity
  6. Machinery
  7. Electrics

Basic stability

It is crucial for skippers to have an awareness of the prevailing/forecasted weather conditions and sea state so as to determine if their vessel would be able to withstand such conditions. A vessel’s stability can be affected by many factors:

  • the vessel’s design,
  • any alterations made to the vessel’s original configuration (e.g. the adding of derricks and changing winches),
  • the type of operation the vessel is performing,
  • weight distribution (including the loading of excessive weights on deck),
  • cargo onboard,
  • tank conditions,
  • fasteners,
  • free surface effect caused by flooding, therefore reducing stability,
  • free water on deck,
  • ice accumulation in freezing conditions on the vessel’s steel work and fishing equipment, including pots,
  • incorrect stowage of fish,
  • lifting weights by derrick, therefore changing the vessel’s centre of gravity,
  • movement of cargoes,
  • openings such as hatches and doors are not watertight or have been left open.

All skippers should remember that:

  • Stability cannot be measured – it has to be calculated.
  • They must be aware of all factors that affect the vessel’s stability.
  • They must use the stability book if available.
  • They must assessthe effect of possible modifications may have on the vessel e.g. adding derricks and replacing winches.
  • The higher up a weight is placed, the greater detrimental effect it has on the vessel’s stability.


It is vital that the vessel has fully certified and trained crew on board who are capable of keeping a watch with a good understanding of what is required to undertake this safely and efficiently.

From the Club’s experience of claims, most navigational incidents are caused by:

  • Poor watchkeeping, unqualified or inexperienced watchkeepers
  • Insufficient lookout/no one on the bridge.
  • Fatigue
  • Alcohol and drugs.

It is vital for all skippers to remember that:

  • It is not possible to rely on every give-way3 vessel to take appropriate action.
  • Fishing vessels do not always have special privileges.
  • A proper lookout must be maintained at all times.
  • They must not hesitate to use helm, engine and sound signals if in danger.
  • A magnetic compass must be utilised.
  • The radar must be used as an aid to navigation. 
  • The watch alarm must be tested on automatic pilot.
  • Video plotters must not be solely relied upon.
  • Crew should monitor the relevant navigation warnings and other forms of hazard warnings available for the area and nature of fishing operations.


Working safely/ Safety equipment

All fishermen must be aware of the health and safety laws applicable to their vessels for the area of operation e.g. for vessels within the UK, Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) apply.

It is the skipper’s responsibility to ensure that:

  • A risk assessment has been completed.
  • Emergency procedures are in place and the crew are fully acquainted with them.
  • Maintenance of the vessel and its associated equipment and machinery is up to date.
  • Safety gear is in good order and in the correct location
  • The crew are informed of all safety requirements/policy and working practices required of them.
  • The crew has the correct personal safety/protective equipment including appropriate safety shoes for the job.

Explore more herebelow: