Analysis of fishing vessels registration rules 2021
THERE is no doubt that the marine fisheries sector is an important segment of the maritime economy of Pakistan.
On one hand, it is a livelihood source for the coastal communities and has big export potential.
On the other side, various issues are prevalent such as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing – a major challenge for maritime governance in Pakistan. It has a very close connection with the proper registration mechanism of sea-going vessels.
Recently, the Federal Government has issued ‘Fishing Vessels Registration Rules’ vide S.R.O. No. 1057(I)/2021 dated 11 August 2021.
Considering the requirements under Chapter 32 titled Fishing Vessels and the legal provision under section 449 of the Pakistan Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001 (LII of 2001), promulgation of registration rules for fishing vessels was a much-awaited action by the Federal Government since the enactment of the Ordinance in year 2001.
In the context, the federal government has done an admirable job by issuing these rules without which the system was on ad-hoc procedure and registration cases also exist under Coastal Vessel Act 1838 (XIX of 1838) as indicated in clause 3(3) of S.R.O. 1057(I)/2021.
These rules are good in order to facilitate the fisher-folk and streamline the outstanding registration related issues of sea-going vessels and IUU fishing.
Whereas, there are still some shortcomings which may be addressed through amendment in SRO after meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders including the think tanks, academia, civil society organizations, etc.
Let us overview the good things first. It has provided definitions of the terminologies, particularly important for the case of a foreign vessel i.e. owned-wholly or partially by a foreign nation.
A ‘central register’ of all sea-going fishing vessels is designated that will be maintained by the principal officer of Mercantile Marine Department (MMD), Karachi.
It has declared the names of Port Qasim Authority (PQA), Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) for the ports of vessels’ registry.
Official numbers will be issued and maintained at each port of registry, which shall immediately transmit to the principal officer of Mercantile Marine Department, Karachi.
All registered cases under Coastal Vessel Act 1838 (XIX of 1838) shall be re-registered under Fishing Vessels Registration Rules 2021, without levying registration fee.
It has provided a fee structure for registration of different size vessels. It has also provided guideline for the ownership of minors. It has included different types of application / procedural forms. It provides guidance to paint the official number of the vessel in Urdu, in addition to English.
Six critical shortcomings are identified through a holistic review of the Fishing Vessels Registration Rules 2021.
Firstly, it lacks a clearly stated procedure for ‘deletion of vessel’, which needs to be clarified by adding a new clause.
Secondly, although foreign vessel and foreign joint venture are defined vide clauses 2(g) and 2(h) of the S.R.O. 1057(I)/2021 respectively, there is no clause included to provide guidance on the owner’s citizenship/nationality thus, it is still in ambiguity. There is a need to remove this anomaly by adding a proper clause.
Thirdly, there is no provision or procedure defined regarding IMO number for sea-going fishing vessels in order to enhance maritime safety, and pollution prevention and to facilitate the prevention of maritime fraud; in accordance with the original aim of IMO’s Resolution A. 600(15) adopted in 1987.
In the past, self-propelled sea-going merchant ships of 100GT and above were eligible for an IMO number.
The IMO Assembly expanded the scheme in December 2017 and included fishing vessels of steel and non-steel hull construction, and all motorised inboard fishing vessels of less than 100 GT down to a size limit of 12 meters LOA(Length overall) authorised to operate outside waters under national jurisdiction of the flag State.
The fourth shortcoming reveals that S.R.O. 1057(I)/2021 is silent on compliance requirement for Navigation system, which can be ensured initially at time of registration and subsequently through periodic inspection for safety of the fishing vessels.
The navigation system for sea-going vessels is required under IMO’s Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs).
Navigation system is important in determining safe speed, the risk of collision and the conduct of vessels operating in or near traffic separation schemes.
IMO COLREG 72 describes requirements for sea-going vessels viz-a-viz different sizes and fishing vessels have no exception.
For example, vessels 12 metres or more in length should carry a whistle and a bell, and vessels 100 metres or more in length should carry, in addition, a gong.
Next, it has not included any clause regarding safety measures related periodic inspection of the sea-going vessels in order to ensure sea-worthiness.
Safety protocol for sea-going vessels is required primarily under IMO’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974.
In 1977, delegates at IMO meeting adopted the first international treaty to address the safety of fishing vessels in Torremolinos, with a follow-up Protocol adopted in 1993.
Later, the Cape Town Agreement2012 was adopted in October 2012 with the objective to implement the provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977.
Subsequently, during IMO Conference in 2019, a broader consensus was achieved on the urgent need for the Cape Town Agreement to enter into force.
The Cape Town Agreement features mandatory safety measures for fishing vessels of 24 meters in length and longer and is seen as a “key tool” in combating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
The Agreement addresses fishing vessel construction, stability and associated seaworthiness, electrical installations and machinery, communications equipment, fire protection and life-saving appliances.
The provision of the agreement is expected to improve the safety of life at sea for fishers worldwide.
Finally, yet importantly, considering the distances involved viz-a-viz fishing vessel’s registration at Gwadar as per rules and the operational fishing points at Pasni, Ormara, Jewani and Gadani, there would be an administrative issue regarding the ease of doing business particularly for poor fisher-folk.
There is a need to establish sub-offices at all such points, particularly for the case of Balochistan province.
—The writer is Researcher at National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Islamabad.