Catch of the day: Vessel safety

Posted: Friday, October 10, 2008

For Alaskan commercial fishermen, the waters on which they make their living are far from safe. Currents are strong, temperatures are frigid and storms are frequent, but the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) will be offering a course next weekend in the hopes of increasing safety.

"This will be life saving information. This class alone has dropped the death rates significantly," course instructor Anna Borland-Ivy said.

Specifically, AMSEA will be offering an 18-hour fishing vessel safety and drill conductor course in Homer, at a still to be determined location, on Oct. 17 and 18. The course is open to all mariners, whether or not they fish commercially.

"By federal law any commercial fishing vessel that operates outside of three miles is required to run safety drills every 30 days, conducted by licensed drill conductors," Borland-Ivy said.

As such, she said "Fishing vessel operators, their crews, IFQ holders that jump in a boat and go out with someone, (and) people that work on tenders, should all consider coming."

Borland-Ivy added that fishermen that have already taken the course in the past should consider attending again, particularly since a study by the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health determined that after five years, the effectiveness of the training in reducing fatalities declines significantly.

"It would be a good refresher. I encourage people to take it every few years," she said.

The typical drills are based on emergency events that could be probable while at sea, such as a fire, a flood, a man overboard, or the need to abandon ship.

"It's intense, the Coast Guard is bringing their flood simulator, so in addition to their photo identification and commercial fishing license, people need to bring their immersion suits and rain gear," Borland-Ivy said.

This course, which is limited to 20 people, is U.S. Coast Guard approved and meets training requirements for commercial fishing vessels. Cost for this course is $200 or $150 for AMSEA members, but it is available free to licensed commercial fishermen thanks to funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Coast Guard.

"People need to be 14 years old to take the course and 16 to get the (safety drill conductor) card," she said.

For more information, or to register for the course, contact Anna Borland-Ivy in Homer at 907-235-5955 or Rick Petersen at AMSEA's Sitka Office at 888-508-3287 or 907-747-3287.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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