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 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  09 of 12 August 2020 outlines the time periods for each location and includes key points from the advisory issued by Ningbo Maritime Safety Administration.
Key dates and relevant areas
The fishing ban period in Bohai sea, Yellow sea, East China sea and waters north of latitude 12°N (inclusive of Beibu Gulf) comes to an end on following dates:
- Area north of latitude 35°N in the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea: from 1200 LT on 1 September 2020.
- Yellow Sea and the East Sea between latitudes 35°N - 26°30'N: from 1200 LT on 16 September 2020.
- East China sea from latitude 26°30'N to the Boundary between Fujian and Guangdong: from 1200 LT on 16 August 2020.
- The fishing ban period for several types of fishing boats, including trawlers using spar drag method for shrimp, pots cast method, gill nets method and lighting enclosure (cladding) net method, stretch net fishing and dustpan net fishing at the above sea area: from 1200 LT on 1 August 2020.
- South China Sea from latitude 12°N to the boundary between Fujian and Guangdong (including Beibu Gulf): from 1200 LT on 16 August 2020.
For easy reference, the areas are marked in the chartlet below and the dates have been mentioned. Masters are encouraged to incorporate the dates and relevant areas in their passage plans and where possible also mark them 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.
Key characteristics of fishing areas and frequency of collision
Huatai in their circular PNI 1708 issued 11 August 2017 highlight key characteristics of the fishing areas and the fishing traffic involved. These are:
- Fishermen’s lack of familiarity with Collision Regulations
- Challenges in establishing communication with the fishing boats. It may be due to various factors such as language barriers, poor communication equipment on the boats and difficulties in identifying the names of the boats etc.
- Periods of low visibility
In the same circular they have also included a chart showing the areas with a high frequency of collision. We reproduce the image below. Mariners may also experience higher density of fishing vessels in areas just outside the marked areas in the below illustration.
- Voyage planning: Designated fishing zones should be noted during voyage planning and marked on the charts.
- Bridge team composition: 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 day. Other onboard activities for relevant crew members should be planned accordingly to ensure that members of the bridge team are well rested for navigation related duties.
- Safe speed: In areas of high fishing density, proceed at a safe speed with engines ready for maneuvering. The Officer of the Watch (OOW) should be empowered to adjust the speed as necessary.
- Use of RADAR/ARPA: Make full use of radar and sound fog signal when navigating in fog, even when no fishing boats are sighted on the radar. The use of radar can be vital when navigating in these waters. General practice of long ranges scanning (12-48 nm) using the S-band radar to identify clusters of fishing fleet and using the X-band on small range (3-6 nm) for collision avoidance can be effective.
- Keeping clear of clusters: Where theOOW is able to detect a cluster of fishing boats, it is advisable to alter course well in advance to avoid navigating through it.
- Marking of nets: 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. 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.
- Attracting attention of the boats: If the attention of the fishing boats is to be gained for any reason then use whistle and day lamp. Establishing contact via VHF might prove difficult.
- Actions in case of a collision: Should a collision occur or is suspected to have occured, remember to do the following:
- render all possible assistance to the fishing vessel
- contact nearest VTS/MSA via VHF or calling their emergency telephone number +86 12395
- maintain a record of all evidence including VDR data
Gard would like to thank Huatai Insurance Agency and Consultant Services for their circulars PNI  09 of 12 August 2020 and PNI 1708 issued 11 August 2017. We encourage Members and clients to share their own experiences with us, using the email firstname.lastname@example.org.