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Trawlers (Safety Devices)

Volume 884: debated on Monday 13 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he has yet reached a decision regarding the use of the EPIRB, or any similar safety device for fishing trawlers; and if he will make a statement regarding the promulgation of regulations in this matter.

There is a good case for some trawlers carrying these devices, and we are inviting the fishing industry to discuss with us the classes of vessel and the fishing areas for which they would be appropriate. We have also launched a research and development project covering alerting and locating devices related to maritime casualties.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his answer, but is he aware that the last time he spoke in the House—18th November, I think—was two days before we had the findings of Commissioner Barry Sheen on the "Gaul" disaster, and on that very day a demonstration was held in St. Andrew's Dock, in Hull, by Marine Electronics, showing the working of one of these new radio buoys —I shall not give the full name—with his officials present? Will my hon. Friend comment on their opinions on the efficacy of this buoy, since all others there—deckhands, union officials, vessel owners and skippers—felt that it was a huge success and would be of enormous help in avoiding such disasters as the awful loss of the "Gaul" last year?

We are always anxious, as I am sure the whole House is, to take whatever precautions we can to avoid the sort of disaster that occurred with the "Gaul" and other ships. However, it woud be wrong if I were to suggest that any one demonstration would produce a complete answer to these problems. We have undertaken profound research into the development of this sort of alerting and locating equipment. IMCO is looking very carefully at the matter and has made certain recommendations, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we are giving the highest priority to this research.