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A Vessel Is Its Own Best Lifeboat: Prevention of Casualties Through Education

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The U.S. Coast Guard has observed the death rate for commercial fishermen decline steadily during the years following the enactment of the Fishing Vessel Safety Act of 1988. This Act called for requirements of survival equipment and fire fighting equipment, among other items, targeted at minimizing the consequences of a vessel capsize, sinking, fire or other casualty that required the crew to abandon ship. In recent years, the death rate has plateaued with minimal to no decreases and even a slight increase in 1996. While of concern, this plateau seems logical because the primary focus over the last eight to ten years has been on reducing the consequences of commercial fishing casualties (response). However, fishing vessels continue to capsize or sink before crew members are able to access survival equipment and lives are being lost. In order to continue to decrease the industry death rate, regulators and those responsible for oversight of this industry must shift the focus from reducing the consequence of casualties (response) to decreasing the likelihood of casualties occurring (prevention). This paper details the most recent initiative the U.S. Coast Guard has undertaken in its Fishing Vessel Safety Program and describes the Fishing Vessel Training Suite developed to facilitate this industry-wide education. The Training Suite consists of three trainers and a document titled, "Best Practices Guide to Vessel Stability." The three trainers include: (1) Interactive Stability Trainer, (2) Small Vessel Damage Stability Trainer, and (3) Small Vessel Damage Control Trainer. The U.S. Coast Guard has received very positive feedback from the commercial fishing industry and lives have been saved as a result of the use of this Training Suite.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2001

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