Belfast Telegraph

Fishing boats to get radio beacons

New rules are being introduced to force every small fishing boat to be fitted with special radio locator beacons.

In an attempt to save lives and improve safety, skippers will be ordered to have electronic devices to alert search and rescue teams to their position in the event of an accident.

Some 800,000 euro is being made available over the next three years to pay for the scheme.

The plan is part of new regulations and initiatives announced by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in Union Hall, Cork where five men died in a fishing disaster last year.

"I firmly believe we can and must do more to prevent tragedies such as those we have seen in the recent past," Mr Varadkar said.

"The bottom line is that we can pass any law we like, but if it is not enforced and we do not have a culture of zero tolerance in regard to non-compliance, we will continue to lose loved-ones at sea in the coming years."

Alongside regulations to enforce the use of the float free self-activating Epirbs, or Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacons, the new scheme will provide grants to refit old beacon systems.

All vessels under 15m must carry the Epirb and Bord Iascaigh Mhara will run the fit-out with 60% of the cost of equipment covered for vessels under 12m, and 40% for larger ones.

Grants will also be made available for boats to be fitted with auto-pilot alarm systems but a decision has not been taken on whether they should be mandatory. Wireless engine cut-offs are also being encouraged.

The scheme will also offer enhanced safety training every five years for skippers and fishing crews.

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