Fishing firm hauled up for making crew pay for gear
It says it will now pay for the pants and boots, but insists that falling foul of safety rules was doing nothing unusual
As if life aboard a fishing trawler wasn’t difficult enough, an Eastern Cape fishing company has been caught out forcing its crew to pay for some of their own protective clothing – in contravention of maritime law.
A report by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), released publicly last week, said the squid trawler Silver Explorer was temporarily grounded until the owners agreed to pay for the crew’s gear: “During an ad hoc inspection on the MV Silver Explorer everything was found to be in order except that the crew was still paying for their oilskin pants and oilskin trousers, as well as their gumboots,” the report said.
“Corrective action was to prohibit the vessel from sailing until the matter was addressed in terms of regulations and proof thereof forwarded to Samsa,” the report said.
Companies are obliged to provide safety gear in terms of the Maritime Occupational Safety (MOS) Regulations of 1994.
Talhado Fishing confirmed last week it had fallen foul of an ad-hoc safety inspection by not adhering to all aspects of the MOS regulations of 1994, but insisted it had not been doing anything unusual: crew paid for their own gear because of the migratory nature of squid fishermen.
Talhado director Dino Moodaley said: “The law came into place but nobody in the industry adhered to every detail of the law. Fishermen move from vessel to vessel. They take everything (their gear) with,” Moodaley said.
He said the company would henceforth pay for the additional protective clothing according to a “bonus scheme” whereby crew qualified for the subsidy if they stayed with a vessel for a minimum period. “We have discussed it with Samsa and come to an arrangement,” Moodaley said.
“It will be the standard for the industry. We were one of the first companies who agreed to it, and it will apply to everybody now.”
Commenting on the incident, Samsa described the Talhado agreement as a milestone for the local fishing industry: “All licensed fishing companies in South Africa are aware of the MOS Regulations, yet violation remains prevalent in a sector where no less than 3,000 fishermen – in the southern region of the country at least – remain exposed to industry practices that leave them financing certain items,” Samsa said.
“In the process, what earnings fishermen made during their employment were significantly reduced, with massive negative impacts to their social lives.
“This is a victory for the fishermen as it will result in a saving for each and every fisherman, with money back in their accounts.”
Companies not adhering to the law would be “dealt with in accordance with the regulations”, the organisation said.
Samsa commended Talhado for committing itself to financing personal protective equipment. “The company manages 15 vessels with crews of between 20 and 25 persons at R1,200 per annum per person – which means over 330 crews with a total saving back in their pockets of over R400,000 per year,” Samsa said.