… stronger regulation in the offing
The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) has begun processes to properly regulate activities in the fishing industry as a means to better protect lives and enhance the livelihoods of players in the sector. As a result, the GMA is working assiduously on ratification of the Cape Town Agreement (CTA) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention 2007 to help it regulate the sector.
Speaking at a stakeholder meeting on ratification of the two conventions, Director General of the GMA Thomas Alonsi stated that the authority is always bedevilled with some pertinent issues in the sector, but it is sometimes restrained in addressing them because GMA lacks jurisdiction.
“The Ghana Maritime Authority receives several complaints concerning the welfare of fishers, which often include poor conditions of employment and cases of death onboard vessels – and with all these challenges, it is obvious that a lot needs to be done to sanitise Ghana’s fishing industry and make the fishing profession more desirable.
“The GMA therefore requires some legal backing that will empower us to protect the welfare of fishers. The ratification of both the Cape Town Agreement and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention is very necessary at this time,” Mr. Alonsi said.
He added that a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999 established that about 24,000 fishers lose their lives yearly in the Fishing Sector; and this number is 10 times more than deaths on Merchant Ships. As a result, it is worrying that fishing, which is one of the most hazardous professions in the world, is also one of the least regulated in the Maritime industry.
“Fishing Vessel Operators, with the aim of maximising profit, neglect the safety and maintenance of their vessels; indulge in illegal fishing; and under-report their catch. They endanger the lives of fishers by cutting corners in the management of their vessels, and ignore regulations which govern vessel modification.
“Most of the fishing vessels usually lack sufficient onboard safety equipment, and are often operated for extended periods without undergoing safety inspections. Fishers who work on such vessels are also made to work under the most indecent conditions,” Mr. Alonsi said.
The Cape Town Agreement (CTA) of 2012 is a Convention that seeks to enhance safety onboard fishing vessels. It is an internationally binding agreement that will facilitate better control of fishing vessels’ safety by flag, port and coastal states. It will also contribute to the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
CTA sets internationally agreed standards on the design, construction, and equipment of seagoing fishing vessels which are 24 metres in length or of 300 gross tonnage (GT) and above
Further, this Convention likewise allows progressive implementation of regulations on life saving equipment, emergency procedures, radio communications and shipborne navigational equipment to existing large fishing vessels for five (5) to ten (10) years.
Twenty-two member-states with a combined 3,600 or more eligible fishing vessels are needed in order for this Convention to enter into force
Sixteen states have ratified it as of 6th April 2021 (Denmark, Finland Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Congo etc.)
ILO Work in Fishing Convention
The main objective of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention is for decent living and working conditions onboard fishing vessel. As with all ILO Conventions, it is to ensure social justice.
It is pushing for a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards: Food, accommodation and medical care at sea; and fair employment practices, insurance and liability.
The convention among other things aims to ensure that fishers: Have improved occupational safety and health and medical care at sea, and that sick or injured fishers receive care ashore; and receive sufficient rest for their health and safety.
It also ensures they have the protection of a written work agreement and also have the same social security protection as other workers. It also aims to ensure that fishing vessels are constructed and maintained so that fishers have decent living conditions on board.
The stakeholders include: Marine Police from the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Navy, Fisheries Commission, Regional Maritime University, Ministry of Fisheries and Aqua Culture Development, Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA), National Fisheries Association of Ghana. They all in unison called for a quick passage of the convention, but requested more education for players in the sector.