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The cost of upgrading fishing boats to comply with new regulations first mooted three years ago means some boats cannot put to sea again. It's a move that will cost hundreds of jobs to coastal communities says Tom MacSweeney

The nation may be reeling from the revelations about Anglo Irish Bank and AIB. The fishing industry is reeling from another shocker. While earlier this week it cranked up its PR machine in an attempt to convince the public it was going to create jobs, the reality is that this Friday, October 1, it wiped out at least 200 and the overall effects of what it has done may throw as many as 800 people out of work in coastal areas.

That is callous disregard for people and underlines the disinterest and disrespect which the Government has for the maritime sector.

These jobs are in the fishing industry and are being lost because of a decision by the Department of Transport that smaller fishing boats, ranging in size from 15 to 24 metres must conform to the same safety standards as bigger boats, those over 25 metres, even though they operate under different fishing methods.

There can be no argument against safety, but there should be moderate, reasonable implementation of regulations. To quote the Taoiseach in his own recent defence, "moderation in all things." There are 99 boats in the Irish fleet in the 15-24 metre category. These are, effectively, day boats which operate in inshore waters, close to land. The Department has decided to implement regulations requiring them to conform to the same standards as bigger vessels that operate farther out to sea for extended periods.

Of the 99 boats nationwide faced with the implementation of the new regulations, 39 have not applied for certification, apparently because owners could either not afford the costs of upgrading the boats to the higher standard or felt the vessels would not be able to meet those standards, irrespective of how much money was spent on them. Those 39 boats have to be tied up, unable to go fishing any longer, another blow to the Irish fishing fleet. Their owners and crews will face unemployment.

The total number of jobs lost nationally could be up to 800, according to fishing organisations, when those whose livelihoods ashore depend on the 200 direct fishing jobs are added.

The Department makes the point that it has been known for three years that these new regulations would be imposed and that there has been ample time for owners to upgrade. Fishing organisations asked the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, who also holds the brief of marine safety, to establish a separate category of safety requirements applying specifically to the smaller boats. Dempsey, who has not been a friend of the fishing industry, refused. So around 200 fishermen are out of work, directly due to a Government decision. It has not been explained why different regulations cannot be applied to different sizes of boats.

The sight of more Irish fishing boats tied to the quay wall, stopped by Irish Government regulations from working will not be pleasant.


• This article is reprinted by permission of the CORK EVENING ECHO in which Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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