Sunday, January 07, 2007

Black Coast

Black Coast

Bad news striking again the Portuguese fishermen community. A fishing boat “Luz do Sameiro” with seven crew on board sunk close to shore in Nazare area apparently when recovering fishing nets, the score at the moment are Black, three dead, three missing and one man recovered alive, search and rescue operations still undergoing by Portuguese Navy and other rescue corporations. First some psychological and financial help must be given to the dead fishermen families, and after some questions must be answered such as, why a fishing boat was so close to shore, apparently recovering fishing nets in a forbidden area, what kind of means the boat used to call for help VHF (CH 70) or other and why the rescue helicopter took so long to arrive on the accident scene?

As usual all kind of voices starts to shout out loud to blame this and that, looking for reasons and causes for such accident, from experts and less experts on the matter to the common people all gave their opinion about such serious accident. In to my mind just a proper enquiry by the Maritime Authorities should follow ASAP. I really would like to see stated in the final report not just the immediate causes but also the more profound reasons, that I'm sure will be found, looking for scapegoats will not take us any further and will not improve safety for our men working at sea.

We all know (I hope) that safety for those working at sea is paramount, good safety procedures at sea are directly related upon crews with right education, trained and well fitted, in resume having adequate certification for their jobs at sea, the boats must be in good condition, suitably equipped for the intended job and having all mandatory certification updated, but this is not enough, ashore the means to backup and help those working at sea like fishermen or those just passing through Portuguese waters in commercial trade should be of utmost importance for the Portuguese maritime authorities.

The SAR (Search and Rescue) operations, medical, technical or any kind of help needed, must be effective and promptly available, the different institutions with responsibilities on these aspects must work together and well coordinated. With the advent of GMDSS and implementation of Lisbon MRCC and Azores MRCC, conditions were created to have a modern and good SAR operations in Portuguese jurisdictional waters, is my belief that the MRCC responsibilities should not be restricted just to the watch on DSC emergency frequencies like VHF frequencies (Ch. 70) or all other SSB frequencies with SAR purposes or just wait for the phone to ring, but active coordination of all means at sea or by air, contact with other MRCCs and working as logistic centre for all “HELP” operations on the Atlantic vast area West of Portugal should be the goal. Some of you are already saying, what I wrote above, is nothing new and according GMDSS the role of a MRCC is exactly coordinated all means available to help all in danger at sea...

I remember when I was studying at Nautical school, to have made a visit to the future installations of Lisbon MRCC in Oeiras and the very bad working conditions and old equipment that the operators had at the time, I don’t know how are the conditions now after 17 years, but by the criticism heard on the media about the time wasted and delay to give proper assistance to the fishing boat “ Luz do Sameiro” it looks that something could be done better, I don’t want to judge nobody and if we know the conditions of work for the ones involved in rescue operations, maybe, we call heroes to the boys that along the Portuguese coast ( old ISN ), in the Navy patrol boats and helicopters put in risk their lives to rescue the others.

The name for this post came to my mind because I remember when I start working with British crews some years ago they all call the Portuguese coast as the Black Coast because they knew if something went wrong they hardly got some help from shore, fortunately now the things are better but there’s still a lot to improve.
All the best, be careful out there.



1 comment:

Malheiro do Vale said...

Excelente a análise do José.

Todos nós (quando digo “nós” refiro-me aos marítimos e não aos terráqueos que são pródigos em opinar sobre estas questões…) sabemos que de um modo geral os tripulantes destas embarcações não têm formação e treino adequados, não possuem equipamento de segurança individual ou não sabem usá-lo, muitos não sabem sequer nadar, forçam a ida para o mar em situações meteorológicas de risco, pescam em zonas proibidas (nomeadamente junto à rebentação), não têm qualquer controlo relativamente às horas de descanso, sendo o jogo do gato e do rato com as autoridades uma constante.

As associações representativas do sector (pelo menos aquelas que deram a cara nos meios de comunicação social) são rápidas a fazer exigências de todo o tipo ao Estado mas falham na apreciação do seu próprio desempenho. Admitem que a formação não é adequada, que os pescadores não possuem equipamento individual de segurança adaptado ao seu trabalho (passo a informar que os coletes que se usam junto ao corpo e disparam na água e que o representante do sindicato dizia serem muito caros custam cerca de 90 euros…) mas não avançam medidas concretas.

Apesar de dificilmente ter sido possível fazer melhor, do lado do Estado também sabemos que nem tudo está bem no âmbito do SAR. A escuta nas frequências de socorro é esparsa (poderá ficar resolvido com a entrada em funcionamento do VTS costeiro prevista para o final do ano) e os meios são, nalguns casos, obsoletos e insuficientes. A criação de uma Guarda Costeira com meios adequados a situações extremas de mau tempo é absolutamente necessária.

Esta é a hora de reequacionar determinados investimentos que estão a ser feitos pela Marinha em equipamentos de utilidade no mínimo duvidosa e de critérios políticos ou politizados. Infelizmente, como em tantas outras situações (SOLAS, MARPOL, sigle hull phase-out, etc.), é necessário um acidente no mar para que algo mude.

Outro aspecto muitas vezes esquecido é o dos inquéritos e análises aos acidentes. Nesta área há ainda muito a fazer, começando pela divulgação pública imediata na Internet de todos os relatórios, preliminares ou não, sobre os acidentes ocorridos, mesmo antes de haver conclusões. Nas democracias verdadeiras é assim que se faz.