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As the seasonal fishing ban comes to an end in China, shipowners and operators are advised to take additional precautions when planning a voyage to and from Chinese ports due to the increased number of fishing vessels in Chinese waters.

Note -- An update to this alert was published in August 2020

During the period 2006 to 2011 there were some 268 incidents involving fishing vessels in Chinese waters, resulting in 562 deaths. Since that time the severity of the incidents has improved somewhat, although the frequency remains high.

Gard’s correspondents in China, Huatai Insurance Agency and Consultant Service Ltd., recently published a circular warning of an increase in fishing traffic in the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the waters north of 12° N of South China Sea (including the Beibu Gulf) as the seasonal fishing ban comes to an end. Huatai Circular PNI 1708 of 11 August 2017 outlines the time periods for each location and provides some key information to assist with voyage planning during this period.

 

Masters are encouraged to plot the dates and applicable areas covered by the fishing ban on navigation charts and ECDIS. Although the geographical boundaries of the areas are well defined, navigational watches should not be relaxed in anticipation of lower traffic density outside the defined area. Similarly, the dates are for guidance only as there is likely to be other commercial or fishing traffic in the waters surrounding the area.

The circular highlights some of the key characteristics of the fishing areas and the fishing vessels involved. Please see the Circular for further details.

  • Periods of low visibility.
  • Communication characteristics of the fishing vessels.
  • Lack of familiarity with COLREGS.

Below illustration highlights the areas with a high frequency of collision. Mariners may also experience higher density of fishing vessels in areas just outside the marked areas in the below illustration.    

 

Recommendations

  • Designated fishing zones should be noted during voyage planning and marked on the charts. We also recommend increasing bridge watch keeping level in advance so as to ensure that the OOW has sufficient assistance at night as well as during daytime.
  • Make full use of radar and sound the fog signal when navigating in fog, even when no fishing boats are sighted on the radar. Using radar when navigating in these waters is vital. General practice of long range scanning (12-48 nm) using the S-band radar to identify clusters of fishing vessels and using the X-band radar on small range (3-6 nm) for collision avoidance can be effective.
  • Fishing nets are difficult to detect as they may be poorly marked. Night time detection of the nets may be easier if they display lights marking the fishing net boundaries. Day time visual sighting, on the other hand, can be a real challenge. Nets with radar reflectors can be useful, but this is not a common practice and mariners have to rely on timely visual sightings of the markers. If the vessel encounters fishing nets, stop engines immediately to prevent the propeller being fouled.
  • Should a collision occur, render all possible assistance to the fishing vessel and contact VTS/MSA via VHF or their emergency number +86 12395.

Gard would like to thank Huatai Insurance Agency and Consultant Services for their circular. We encourage Members and clients to share their own experiences with us, using the email lp@gard.no.