Inferior fishing boat building is undermining tsunami recovery, says FAO Published: 29 March, 2006
THE UN agency FAO has again urged authorities in tsunami-affected countries to redouble their efforts to ensure that fishing boats built to replace those destroyed during the 2004 disaster meet minimum safety standards.
The agency also called on all organisations financing boat construction to pay closer attention to the safety and quality of craft being built and to take steps to upgrade or replace sub-standard boats already in place.
Though firm figures are not available, reports from FAO staff in the field indicate that many replacement fishing vessels constructed since the disaster are seriously sub-standard.
In Indonesia an estimated 7,600 fishing boats were lost completely — of those, some 6,500 have been replaced, of which an unknown number are unsafe.
In Sri Lanka, where almost 19,000 boats were destroyed, more than 13,000 boats had been replaced by the end of November 2005. FAO estimates that nearly 19 percent — approximately 2,500 vessels — are not seaworthy.
The problem encompasses both wooden boats as well as those with fibre-glass hulls, FAO said. Some are simply not safe to use, while others are likely to deteriorate more quickly than properly built craft.
“Fishing is already the world’s most hazardous occupation, and working at sea in a sub-standard boat is doubly dangerous,” said Jeremy Turner of FAO’s Fisheries department.
“Another major problem is that these boats will need to be replaced — in many cases within the next two years — and as humanitarian aid shifts elsewhere, fishers will be left to foot the bill,” he added.
Many tsunami-hit countries do not have regulations governing the construction of small fishing vessels. This fact, coupled with the deaths of a number of experienced boatbuilders during the disaster, contributed to the current situation.
“Everyone has been acting in good faith, trying to do their best to build boats as fast as possible in order to help fishermen as soon as possible,” he added. “It’s just that many organisations simply don’t have the expertise needed to make sure that boats are up to standard.”
FAO has been working with national and local authorities, fishing communities and the private sector in tsunami-affected countries to improve the state of boatbuilding.
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