No Fatal Accidents for Fishermen Fourth Year Running

Hilmar Snorrason - Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

No fishermen died in an accident at work in the year 2020. For the past ten years, fatal accidents at sea average at less than one per year. Four sailors died in 2012 but since 2017, there hasn’t been a fatal accident. This is the fourth year in a row where no fatal accidents occur for fishermen and Hilmar Snorrason, director of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre, is happy with the results.

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What’s vital for this incredible success is the increased safety consciousness of fishermen, the fishing companies’ increased emphasis on security, and last but not least, the operation of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre. Education and training, as well as better weather forecasts, safer ships and rescue equipment, all work together to make fishermen safer at work, according to Hilmar. Sailors had fewer non-fatal accidents last year as well, with 153 reported accidents to the Icelandic Health Insurance in 2020. In 2019 the number was 172 and 204 in 2018. These numbers encompass both minor wounds and serious accidents.

While most of the numbers of accidents went down, there was a noticeable increase in boats and ships being towed to harbour, with 80 such events in 2020, compared to 18 the year before. Hilmar states that there’s no clear reason for the increase, but one possible explanation is that people are merely reporting such incidents more efficiently. There’s nothing to indicate the global pandemic has had any noticeable effect on sailor safety in the past year.

Hilmar is pleased with the results of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre’s work to increase safety at sea and the reduction of fatal accidents but warns that it doesn’t mean that people can start to relax now. “Maritime safety is not a temporary effort – it requires constant work and vigilance. While we celebrate our victories, we can’t forget how we got here.” In his opinion, the most important step fishermen and fishing companies can take is to perform regular risk assessments and minimise the risk of accidents before they occur.  He dreams that one day, we’ll have a year with no accidents at sea. “I think it’s possible. Just look at the success sailors have had so far.”

Safety First

Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

Hilmar Snorrason doesn’t care what you think.

Last December, he attended a Christmas buffet with his family, and as the dinner was set relatively close to home, he suggested they walk. Adorning himself in his most elegant suit, thrusting his toes into his polished dress shoes, Hilmar stepped into the foyer, where, in the eyes of his family, he proceeded to ruin an otherwise fashionable ensemble – with the addition of a bright-yellow safety vest.

“Fashion, to us Icelanders,” Hilmar muses, from inside his office on the ship Sæbjörg on the Reykjavík harbour, “is often synonymous with the colour black, but I’m not going to walk in the dark wearing dark clothes.”

It’s not an unreasonable statement to make – in a country where December affords four hours of daylight – especially not if one is the headmaster of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre.

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