Article Category: Safety

Vessel Ditch Kits

Vessel Ditch Kits

People call them ‘ditch kits,’ ‘go bags,’ ‘abandon ship’ or ‘evacuation kits.’ No matter the name, having everything you would want for a sudden vessel abandonment will save you precious time. It also will give you a better chance of not getting entangled or entrapped in the vessel while looking for other items to take. It’s the same idea as having an emergency kit for your home or car. At sea your vessel is both your home and transportation when fishing. A prepared ditch kit can greatly increase your survivability if you have to leave the shelter of your vessel and enter into the hostile environment of the ocean. If you have a Coast Guard-approved life raft for your commercial fishing vessel, it should have many helpful items in it. Most of these items are designed to facilitate the ...
What’s New at NIOSH:  A Look at Current Research on Fishing Safety

What’s New at NIOSH: A Look at Current Research on Fishing Safety

By Devin Lucas, Samantha Case and Richie Evoy – National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Introduction Commercial fishing is a dangerous job with many challenges and competing priorities. With limited time and resources, managing the various hazards to vessel and crew can be demanding. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been helping fishermen identify and solve safety problems for over 30 years. This article gives a brief overview of current NIOSH research efforts aimed at helping the fishing industry protect its workforce and vessels from harm.  Testing the Integrity of Immersion Suits to Determine Service Life Immersion suits with leaking seams can allow cold water to enter, diminishing the buoyancy and thermal protection needed in an ...
Life Raft Survival Kit Use

Life Raft Survival Kit Use

Years ago, a fishing vessel suddenly capsized and sank in the middle of the night. Only two crewmembers made it out into the frigid water. They reached their life raft and with great effort, despite the cold, climbed into it. The next morning, the raft was found, but the crew didn’t survive due to hypothermia. When rescuers located the raft the next day, they noticed that its survival kit, which contained two Thermal Protective Aids (TPAs), had never been opened. A TPA is an orange zippered mummy-shaped bivy sack that traps in heat. Unless you live close to a certified life raft re-packer, most owners don’t see the contents of the survival kit that comes with every U.S. Coast Guard or SOLAS-approved life raft. If you view the contents of the survival pack, some objects in the kit may...
SOLAS & Visual Distress Signals

SOLAS & Visual Distress Signals

Visual Distress Signals (VDS) in the form of flares and orange smoke have been available for over 100 years. Although marine emergency signals via radios and satellite technology now provide worldwide coverage, a red flare on a dark night can still improve your odds of being seen and give a message of distress in an emergency. Consider this: about 15 years ago in New England, a woman woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. Unable to get back to sleep, she got up and looked out of her bedroom window, which had an expansive view of the sea and night sky. At that very moment, she saw a bright red meteor distress flare far out at sea arc through the night sky and fall slowly back to earth. She immediately called 911. Call it coincidence or divine intervention, a fishing crew was saved...
A Gift Worth Giving

A Gift Worth Giving

We are thick into the holiday and giving season. Time for family and friends and those New Year’s resolutions for improving ourselves. This has been a good year for new marine products that improve safety. If you work on the water, there’s no better gift than one that can save a life. The following life-saving devices have drawn a lot of interest from the thousand mariners we have trained in the past year and would make great gifts for the mariner in your life. EPIRB – ACR Global Fix V5 Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) head the wish list this year. Whether you’re in danger in the remote south Pacific Ocean or in your local home port, within minutes they can tell Search and Rescue (SAR) where you are. EPIRBs have saved thousands...
Watertight Door Maintenance

Watertight Door Maintenance

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, flooding and resultant capsizings are responsible for about 50% of fishing vessel casualties. Maintaining a watertight envelope, including watertight doors, is key to keeping the ocean out of your vessel. But what is a watertight door? A watertight door, according to the Coast Guard, is “a space constructed to withstand a static head of water without any leakage.” Whereas a weather-tight door is “a door that water will not penetrate into the unit in any sea condition.” In other words, a watertight door should not leak even when there is a head of water on the opposite side of the door, as opposed to a weather-tight door that is just designed to keep the weather and normal seas from leaking through the door. To give an idea of the water pressure a wa...
Ammonia Risks in Fish Processing

Ammonia Risks in Fish Processing

Ammonia is a popular, cost-effective refrigerant in many fish processing plants, both afloat and onshore. Anhydrous (without water) ammonia (NH3) is a colorless, heavier-than-air gas at normal air pressure and temperature, but at pressure it turns into a liquid. It is stored in pressurized containers. Once released from pressure it turns into an icy vapor that can freeze skin within seconds. When it combines with water it forms ammonium hydroxide, which is a component of lye and thus is also very caustic to skin. It is potentially a flammable gas if heated above 1,560 degrees Fahrenheit and an ammonia/air mix of 16%-25%. This material is very toxic to aquatic life. Water contaminated with this material must be contained and prevented from being discharged to waterways, sewers or drains. ...
Onboard De-Escalation

Onboard De-Escalation

Fishermen work in a stress-rich environment. There’s trip planning and preparation, forecasting weather and sea conditions and risk of mechanical failure. There’s business issues too—fish prices, inflation, making delivery schedules, managing crew, debt and regulatory agencies, fish management schemes and fish stock conditions. There are plenty of triggers to cause agitation on a vessel. Agitation is actually an acute behavioral emergency that requires immediate intervention. Stress can lead to an explosion of verbal, mental or physical abuse that can take the form of bullying, aggression or hostility. In the physical and mentally demanding environment of fishing, getting along on the vessel is a highly valued skill. There isn’t an option to just walk out the door and go home while at se...
Dental Emergencies at Sea

Dental Emergencies at Sea

Although we usually think of emergencies at sea in terms of fire, capsizing, flooding or personal injury, a dental problem can also cut short a fishing opening or even require an emergency medivac. Let’s take a look at some common dental problems and how to deal with them onboard. Infections Infections involve either the pulp tissue inside the tooth or the gum tissue around the tooth. Signs and symptoms can include loose teeth or sensitivity to hot, cold or biting. Redness or swelling in the gum tissue or on the face occur in the later stages and should be treated promptly by a dentist. Treatment at sea could include oral antibiotics; have an in-date supply onboard before problems arise. They may be successful in somewhat suppressing the infection, but won’t cure the problem. A gum s...
How West Coast Fisheries Can Prepare for Challenges of Climate Change

How West Coast Fisheries Can Prepare for Challenges of Climate Change

The bad news about climate change is that nearly everything in our fragile ocean environment is about to shift, and indeed is already changing, in ways likely to be detrimental to our existing fisheries. The good news, however, is that there are a number of things our fisheries managers—and our industry—can still do to prepare and be ready for those challenges. In case you missed them, two thorough California Current climate change Vulnerability Assessments (VAs) have been released for Pacific Salmon & Steelhead (VA 2019) and Other Managed Species (VA 2023). The latter also includes salmonids. Data and assessments from these documents, produced by National Marine Fisheries Services Science Center staff and other partners, are also being made available in other formats (e.g., the Pac...