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Pumping up inflatable jackets for commercial fishermen

Joint initiative pumps up inflatable jackets for commercial fishermen

Commercial fishermen crossing West Coat bars to chase tuna this season have no excuse for not wearing lifejackets.

A joint initiative by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), the New Zealand Shipwreck Welfare Trust, and lifejacket manufacturer Survitec Group (makers of RFD products) will see inflatable lifejackets provided to any small (two-three man) commercial operations working out of Westport or Greymouth during the albacore tuna season.

All they have to do is ask – and undertake to wear them.

The Shipwreck Welfare Trust provides financial assistance for the dependants of those lost in commercial maritime or fishing accidents and, with help from Survitec Group, is giving inflatable lifejackets away – as long as fishermen pledge to wear them during bar-crossings.

Lifejackets will be provided free of charge but recipients will be encouraged to make a donation to the Shipwreck Welfare Trust.

The lifejackets, provided to the Trust at cost price by Survitec, are part of a safety package fishermen will receive including MNZ’s DVD on bar crossing and the National Code of Practice for Bar Crossings.

MNZ Maritime Officer Domonic Venz said the idea for the initiative came after the loss of the fishing vessel Lady Anna while attempting to cross the Greymouth bar in April.

Photographs show the skipper of the vessel, Nick Eklund, without a lifejacket, clinging to the upturned vessel. He was subsequently washed off the hull and drowned. Two other crew members survived by clinging to a life buoy.

“The message is simple – even experienced fishermen should be wearing lifejackets when they cross bars,” Domonic said. “All fishermen must carry lifejackets by law, but what MNZ has found in its investigations is that some fishermen feel they cannot afford inflatables and don’t like wearing the bulkier lifejackets that they carry. We wanted to find a solution to that issue and the Shipwreck Welfare Trust and Survitec have come up with what we think is a great response.”

Domonic said the tuna season, which does not require fishermen to have quota to fish, attracts 50-60 fishermen to the Coast between December and April, joining 25 local operators.

“A lot of the crews from outside the area will not be experienced in bar crossing, and that can heighten the risk of accidents.”

The partner of Mr Eklund, Melissa Clark, has endorsed the idea.

“Anybody who lives with the reality of a loved one going to sea, and having to cross the bar, knows the anxiety you live with until they return safely. Knowing they are going to sea with an inflatable lifejacket that they will wear when they’re crossing the bar will ease that worry,” she said.

Shipwreck Welfare Trust chairman Ray Polson said the Trust welcomed the opportunity to be part of such a safety campaign.

“The Trust is there for families when things go wrong at sea but we are pleased to be part of this initiative which aims to keep commercial fishermen safe, even when accidents occur,” he said. “I believe these lifejackets – and the focus on safe bar crossings – will save lives.”

Survitec Group Southern Region Manager Dave Chapman said: “As a company, safety is at the heart of everything we do. This initiative is all about keeping people working at sea safe and we are delighted to be a part of it.”

The lifejacket and safety package is available to any small fishing operators intending to work out of Greymouth or Westport during the albacore fishing season.

Fishermen wishing to apply for the package should contact MNZ at, or phone 04 473 0111.

Donations can be made to the Shipwreck Welfare Trust by contacting:
Bruce Collins
Managing Trustee,
New Zealand Shipwreck Welfare Trust
PO Box 92
Dunedin 9054


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