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Extension and concessions granted to help industry with medical certification

Posted inFishingbyYasmin Talbot

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has announced access to grandfather rights for fishing medicals is to be extended until spring 2024 for seasonal fishers.

It means that fishers who do not work over the winter will now have up until 30 April 2024 to get their medical certificate in place. This extension also applies for those seasonal fishers who have a pre-existing medical condition which still allows them to work and who want to apply for grandfather rights.

The MCA says fishers should still make their appointments as soon as possible but seasonal workers will not have to meet the deadline of 30 November.

However, all those who are working at any point across the winter will need to be in the system – i.e. have booked an appointment – by that deadline. The extension does not alter the coming into force date of medical certification which remains as the end of this month.

In addition, the MCA says it will also apply grandfather rights for those whose eyesight meets international standards even if it doesn’t meet the UK’s, which have been historically higher.

Fisherman on vessel

The MCA has also announced a new pilot project to consider certain insulin-treated solo fishers the opportunity to continue working if they sign up for the scheme. The scheme is open to solo fishers with a stable condition who use non-invasive blood glucose monitoring. The aim is to provide evidence for a future review of the medical standard in this regard.

It will be based on an ongoing study by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which classes pilots who are insulin-treated to be fit to fly under certain conditions, subject to regular blood glucose monitoring.  

Following representations from the industry about the cost of additional testing, the requirement for a fitness test for those with a BMI between 35 and 40 (and who have no other related medical conditions) has been removed.

Virginia McVea, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:

"We want fishers to come home safely. They work in extremely dangerous conditions and our commitment to their safety remains absolute.

"These requirements are the result of UK government agreement with international standards through the Work in Fishing Convention and we continue to do all we can to support the industry to comply."

  • Background

    Fishers intending to work during the winter must have a medical certificate by the 30 November 2023 or at least be in the system by having an appointment by that date.

    Fishers who do not work over the winter will not need a medical fitness certificate until they start working again and do not need an exemption in the meantime. Under this new guidance, they will still be able to benefit from grandfather rights until the end of April.  

    Grandfather rights apply to existing fishers with long term, stable or well controlled medical conditions which do not meet the current medical standards of MSN 1886. They allow the fisher to continue to carry out an occupation they have been engaged in safely prior to the introduction of the requirement for a medical fitness certificate, where they can do so without significant risk to their own or others’ health and safety.

    Currently, grandfather rights are only applicable if a fisher applies before 30 November 2023. During the MCA medical roadshows in Northern Ireland and Scotland, it was noted that a lot of inshore fishing vessels stop fishing over the winter and that these fishers are unlikely to apply for a medical in November when they do not need one until March 2024 to work on board. This led to the decision to extend the deadline for these particular fishermen to 30 April 2024.  

    This is not an extension of the coming into force date for a medical fitness certificate; that will remain as 30 November 2023 and will apply to any fishers who will be working at that time. However, it will provide some breathing space for those who do not need a certificate until they start fishing again in the Spring but were afraid they would then miss out on the extra flexibility provided by eligibility for grandfather rights. It will also help to distribute the high number of fishers still requiring medical examinations in certain areas over a longer period, thereby taking pressure off local medical facilities. This should help to address complaints about difficulties in obtaining appointments.  

    The term ‘inshore’ fishing vessel in this context refers to those which work within the UK’s 200 nautical mile limit, and who are at sea for less than 72 hours at a time, and so can use an ML5 medical certificate instead of an ENG1.

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