Cape Town - Delegates at a fishing safety conference praised a South African negotiating team which helped seal an agreement which when ratified will provide added safety to tens of thousands of fishermen around the world.
A South African team, lead by Captain Nigel Campbell, helped to negotiate a compromise which led to the new agreement, after an impasse between Asian and European nations over the criteria necessary for the agreement to come into force.
The new agreement - the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on implementation of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol - will go some way to bringing into effect the 1977 Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels which has yet to be ratified by IMO member states 35 years on.
The new agreement, which adds to a 1993 protocol on the 1977 convention, must still be ratified by member states.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of a diplomatic conference held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on Thursday, Minister of Transport Ben Martins - who also served as the conference's president - thanked delegates for their support in concluding the agreement.
"All this bodes well for the wide acceptance of the agreement so that its benefits can be met on a truly global basis..." he said.
IMO Secretary-General of the Koji Sekimizu and delegates from the 57 IMO member states present at the conference also praised Captain Nigel Campbell, the head of the SA negotiating team which helped to secure a comprise agreement.
However, Sekimizu said work must continue on a proactive manner to bring the agreement into force as soon as possible, so that fishermen around the world could enjoy added safety.
Legislation from each respective member state now needs to be enacted to ensure that the provisions of the convention were met on fishing vessels, he said.
Fishing is the largest maritime sector in the world and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that about 30 million people worldwide rely on fishing as a source of income or as a food source.
But it is also the most dangerous profession in the world and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that about 24 000 fishermen die in accidents every year.
The ratification of the convention will add to the protection that fishermen already receive under Chapter V of Safety of Life at Sea Convention, as well as under a convention on training standards in fishing and a fishing convention that governs employment and working conditions.
Martins said that the South African negotiating team and a group of experts made up of delegates, had during the conference helped resolve an impasse between several European countries and Asian nations over the entry into force and application provisions needed in order to ratify the convention.
Before the conference the convention had been ratified by 17 states with a collective fishing vessel fleet of about 3 000 vessels.
The new requirement, negotiated at the conference, allowed the convention to enter into force with the approval of 22 states with a total fleet of 3 600 vessels.
In addition, progressive implementation of the agreement will now be included within windows of five and 10 years. - SAnews.gov.za