U.S. Coast Guard regulators are hopeful a new federal law requiring dockside inspections for around 2,400 boats that regularly operate three or more miles from the Maine and New Hampshire coast will improve job safety, according to a report in the Bangor Daily News.
Citing figures reported by the Boston public radio station WBUR, the BDN reported that groundfishermen off the coast of New England and New York were 37 times more likely to die on the job than a police officer.
The radio report found that 70% of groundfishing deaths in that region were a result of a boat catching fire, capsizing or sinking. The BDN found that over 70 emergencies have been reported in the Northeast region since June 1, including a boat that caught fire south of Halfway Rock in Casco Bay and ships that sank near the Saco River, Hog Island and off the coast of Jonesport.
The new federal dockside inspection law that goes into effect Oct. 16 will change the current standard of inspecting fishing boats during voluntary, random at-sea stops and on a biannual rotation.
The new dockside inspections will include ensuring that fishing vessels have items like emergency radios, a flare kit, a fire extinguisher and life boats or life floats. The BDN reported that the 2012 Coast Guard Authorization Act also allows regulatory agencies to make those inspection standards stricter.
Coast Guard inspectors told the BDN that they would not be able to inspect every boat before Oct. 16 but that the Coast Guard plans to hire a new inspector – making three in total – who will work out of the Rockland area.