Raising awareness in the Arctic Council of the provisions of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement

iStock 1206250389 Copyfor the safety of fishing vessels and the experience gained in the implementation process by Arctic States and other nations, recognizing the importance of fishing vessel safety in the Arctic due to the increased traffic of fishing vessels in the region.

The main objective of this project is to raise awareness of the provisions of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement and the experience gained in the implementation process by Arctic States and other nations, recognizing the importance of fishing vessel safety in the Arctic due to the increased traffic of fishing vessels in the region.

List of Tasks/Activities:

  • To establish a Correspondence Group;

  • Develop an Arctic Shipping Status Report (ASSR) on fishing vessel activities in the Arctic with its project co-leads;

  • Develop a Summary Report that includes the findings from the ASSR Report, and highlights the provisions of the Cape Town Agreement for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, that includes:

    • Information on challenges Arctic States or Observer States may have had in ratifying the Agreement;

    • Information on national legislation that may be considered to cover wholly or partially the Agreement; and

    • An overview of such challenges and national legislative information with suggestions for a way forward.

  • The summary report will be presented to PAME for consideration.

  • Convene an online webinar for PAME Members and interested Arctic Council Working Groups where States share their experience, and challenges that may have been identified.



The total number of fishing vessels in the world is estimated at around 4.6 million. Most of these are small vessels. Some 64,000 fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over operate in marine waters.

Approximately two million people work in the global shipping sector, an industry that is highly regulated by instruments such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), a multilateral treaty aimed at ensuring that signatory flag States comply with safety standards.

By comparison, around 38 million people are estimated to be engaged in capture fisheries. Provisions in treaties such as SOLAS generally do not apply to fishers or fishing vessels. SOLAS includes a number of regulations which are applicable to all ships, such as SOLAS Chapter V on safety of navigation. However, many other SOLAS regulations provide an exemption for fishing vessels.

Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is estimated that approximately 80 lives are lost per 100,000 fishers on average.

Data from PAME has recently highlighted the increased number of fishing vessels in the Arctic. The safety of fishing vessels and their crew is of utmost importance, especially in the unique environmental and hazardous navigational conditions of the Arctic.

IMO attempts to address Fishing Vessel Safety

IMO has been working for many years, alongside other stakeholders, to enhance fishing vessel safety. IMO adopted the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels in 1977, which was later modified by the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. As both of these treaties had failed to come into force, IMO later adopted the 2012 Cape Town Agreement.

The 2012 Cape Town Agreement is therefore the key IMO treaty to address fishing vessel safety. The Agreement includes mandatory international requirements for stability and associated seaworthiness, machinery and electrical installations, life-saving appliances, communications equipment and fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction. The 2012 Cape Town Agreement will improve the safety of life at sea for hundreds of thousands of fishers worldwide, including in Polar waters, as well as having other benefits.

Summary of Benefits of Cape Town Agreement for Arctic States
While it is acknowledged and understandable that some States may face hurdles in the legislative process limiting their ability to ratify the Agreement, the knowledge already acquired by States who have ratified the Agreement, or who are in the ratification process would be extremely valuable for those States, as well as being of great assistance for all States in terms of lessons learned. This project would aim to highlight that experience, as well as the guidelines currently being developed.

Protect Arctic State rescue services from being called out unnecessarily to substandard fishing vessels;


Save lives in the fishing industry and improve working conditions;


Help create internationally-binding safety standards applicable to foreign registered fishing vessels, giving ‘Port State Control’ ability to binding States to check fishing vessels for safety measures to prevent incidents in Arctic waters. The Agreement has a “no more favorable treatment” clause which means that all vessels entering a port of a State that is a party to the Agreement would be subject to the same inspection standards - even if their flag State has not ratified or acceded to it. This allows States to control all vessels entering their ports, raising global safety standards; and


Help reduce plastic waste from fishing vessels ending up in Arctic waters, through implementation of the safety measures. In particular, abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear accounts for up to 13-15% of total plastics in our ocean and due to world ocean currents much waste has accumulated in the Arctic. From the limited analysis thus far of macro-litter washed ashore on Arctic beaches or accumulating on the seafloor, most (50-100%) can be attributed to fishing activity, such as nets, floats and other debris.

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