Fishing vessels have no documents

In a glaring disobedience of rules and safety regulations, a number of Goan fishing vessels were found to be operating sans any identification documents or safety equipment.

A number of checks conducted by security personnel patrolling the seas during the Sagar Kavach exercise revealed that fishing boat crews did not have even a single document. Furthermore, the boats were not carrying a single lifejacket, lifebuoy or other lifesaving gear.

This was witnessed firsthand by a TOI team aboard a patrol vessel which intercepted five fishing boats off the Goa coast on Thursday. When questioned by security personnel, the fishermen said "we know to swim" and hence did not carry the gear.

The violations come despite orders from the state district collectors in August this year mandating that lifejackets be carried on every fishing boat and barring any fishing vessel from leaving fishing jetties without the lifesaving gear.

"When fishermen do not carry identification documents, how will know if they are legitimate Indian citizens," question a marine security official. He said the security agencies had given the fishermen some leeway by allowing them to carry any identification document from a number of options, but even this was not being done.

Fishermen are required to carry a vessel registration certificate, crew identification card, customs pass, lifejackets, GPS units and a transmitter to receive storm warnings, but none of the items are usually carried.

The official said that this lax attitude from the fishermen was continuing despite the security agencies writing to the fisheries department and coastal police. "The fishing boat owners are to blame for this since they neither provide their boat crew with the lifesaving equipment nor ensure they carry identification documents," said the official.

"The onus on ensuring rules are followed should be placed on the boat owners and they should be penalised for violations rather than the poor fishermen crew. If fishing boat owners are made accountable, everything will fall in place," the official added.

However, Simon Pereira, former president of Goa Fishing Boat Owners Association said "we have been telling boat owners to carry life jackets. Around 70% are doing so." [TOI]