A NORTH Yorkshire-based skipper has called for the tide to turn on sea safety after man overboard deaths among trawlermen hit a nationwide high.

Davey Price, 52, from Whitby skipper of the Wakeful, said it was essential those earning a living on the water never set sail without the most basic of equipment - a life jacket.

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The seafarer spoke out after joining other North Sea fishermen on an eye-opening training session in a four metre deep state-of-the-art indoor survival pool in South Tyneside.

He admitted the course, run by safety specialist the RNLI, organised by Grimsby-based Seafish and held at South Shields Marine School’s Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre (MOST), had delivered a reality check.

Participants were tasked with treading water without a life jacket and in their usual waterproofs – and most lasted barely a minute before summoning on-hand help.

Mr Price said: “I ensure my crew always wear their life jackets while at sea, and this course has really opened my eyes to just how important that is.

The Northern Echo: Davey PriceDavey Price

“You never think it’s going to happen to you, but you are always aware it might. This course has brought home the likely outcome should that ever happen.

“I knew being in the survival pool without a life jacket and in regular boat clothing was not going to be easy, and it certainly wasn’t.

“For a few moments I thought I was okay, and then I wasn’t - and if you were at sea in colder waters and without the safety team around you, it would be even worse.

“I would 100 per cent recommend this course to anyone thinking of going to sea without taking safety precautions, it’s a must.”

The one-day course, which features classroom and pool learning and is funded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), aims to highlight the added risk to life fishermen face without a life jacket.

All safety measures are taken in the pool, with fully-trained lifeguards and lifebuoys to hand.

Seafish training adviser Katie Hooper hailed the programme as a potential game changer in an industry which saw 10 man-overboard deaths in 2021, a recent yearly peak.

She said: “Fishermen have been largely left to their own devices, no-one has been watching them even though it is now the law to wear a lifejacket.

The Northern Echo: The group ready for their trainingThe group ready for their training

“The MCA is cracking down hard on those who do not take this simple precaution and skippers can be fined or even have their vessels impounded.

“I think attitudes among the country’s 1,200 trawlermen are changing, and this training programme is playing a critical role.

“Feedback is usually very positive, with many participants telling how shocked they are by how short a time they are in the water before they start struggling.

“Even those who are fit will last only a few minutes if they do not have a life jacket.

“I hear from them the reasons why they don’t like wearing one, or won’t wear one, and it’s just not reason enough.

“Some feel it gets in their way and can snag, but that’s really no excuse. For those who do perish, their families also suffer.

“Fishermen tend to view their work as being dangerous and so carry on regardless, but the number of man overboard deaths is on the increase and such loss would be unacceptable in any other industry.

“The course is important to show them the very real dangers they face and how that risk can be minimised.”

MOST, which is part of Tyne Coast College, is one of Britain’s leading centres for teaching Merchant Navy and oil and gas industry personnel how to stay safe in a sea emergency.

Michael Speers, head of school, said: “We are so committed to supporting this important training that we have provided our fantastic facilities without charge.

“Safety among fishermen has traditionally been poorly regulated, which has contributed to deaths which could likely have been avoided had better procedures been in place.

“It is very important to the fishing industry that safety is tightened and that those working in it have a very clear understanding of how their lives can be saved by the simple act of wearing a life jacket.

“Our first-class facilities are perfect for very powerfully showing fishermen just how much better their chances of survival are if they wear a life jacket while at sea.”

Participants on the non-mandatory course are paid £200 for loss of earnings.

More information is available by visiting https://seafishonlinetraining.co.uk

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