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Lifejacket initiative hits the mark with commercial fishers

Lifejacket initiative hits the mark with commercial fishermen

Inflatable lifejackets are changing safety behaviour for commercial fishermen crossing bars on the South Island’s West Coast after a project by Maritime New Zealand, the NZ Shipwreck Welfare Trust and manufacturer Survitec Group.

In an initiative prompted by the death of skipper Nick Eklund, after the loss of the vessel Lady Anna on the Greymouth bar in April 2013, a total of 113 inflatable lifejackets have now been distributed to fishermen on 57 vessels operating on the Coast for the Albacore fishing season, which runs from December to March.

The Shipwreck Welfare Trust initially funded 80 lifejackets in December, provided at cost price by Survitec, with MNZ purchasing a further additional 33 lifejackets in February 2014.

Feedback from fishermen involved has been positive.

“Putting on lifejackets is now something you do automatically now if you’re crossing the bars,” Fin Horder, skipper of Moata said. “They’re a very good design – wearing them is no trouble at all.”

Mr Horder’s partner, Justine Summers, said it was reassuring to know that lifejackets were being worn in high-risk situations.

“Fishermen can’t have big, bulky jackets on when they’re working – but these are brilliant. You hardly know they’re on. And it’s great to know they are wearing them.”

Les Horncastle, skipper of Kutere, said wearing lifejackets for bar-crossings was mandatory for crew Westfleet Holding Company vessels.

“They’ve got to wear them no matter what the conditions are and that’s the way it should be – otherwise if something goes wrong someone else has to pick up the pieces.”

MNZ Maritime Officer Domonic Venz said, the initiative had put a focus on safety for fishermen.

“Many of the fishermen I’ve spoken to are wearing the jackets not only for bar crossings but any time they go out on deck. This shows that there has been good acceptance and fishermen are starting to think about the additional steps they could take to ensure their safety and that of their crew. I really want to thank the Shipwreck Welfare Trust and Survitec for helping making this project possible.”

Survitec’s Southern Regional Manager, Dave Chapman, said the company was delighted to be involved.

“It’s been a pleasure being part of one of the most proactive safety initiatives I’ve seen in the industry in years,” he said.

“Getting the message across to both industry and leisure skippers and crews in respect of the importance of lifejackets as a primary means of saving lives is vital to reducing the drowning stats in New Zealand.”

ENDS

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