Gas Detection

Refrigerant Leaks in Fishing Vessels – the danger is known, so why so little action? - Dr. Lorcan J. Maher

Feb 09 2011

Author: Dr. Lorcan J. Maher on behalf of Murco Limited

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The inaction by fishing companies and vessel owners in relation to the well known hazards of refrigeration leaks on board commercial fishing boats is nothing short of extraordinary, according to a leading manufacturer of gas leak detection equipment. “There have been deaths and serious injuries to workers on board fishing vessels caused by leaking refrigerant gas, almost every fisheries authority in the world has documented the hazards and specified safety precautions and there are specific regulations in most jurisdictions, notably the European Union. The International Maritime Organization and trades unions have drawn attention to the risks – and still there is widespread failure by the fishing industry to address the problem,” says Dr Lorcan Maher, Managing Director of Murco, a European manufacturer of advanced gas leak detectors for a range of industrial and hazardous gases with its headquarters in Ireland.

The reasons for the widespread inaction cannot be lack of awareness, Dr Maher believes, because the hazards are widely understood and documented while all refrigeration and marine engineers, insurance inspectors and assessors are aware of the need for regulatory compliance in the countries in which they work. “Unfortunately, in matters of safety in all industries world wide it is often the fact that money speaks louder than formal regulation. So perhaps it will take a high-profile law suit by an injured crew member or the family of a dead one – or dismissal of a large insurance claim because of failure to take proper precautions – to change the mind set of management in the commercial fishing industry. The exasperating thing is that even from the point of view of good business, much less safety, systems to detect refrigerant leaks are actually quite inexpensive. In fact refrigerant replacement is such an ongoing expense for fishing vessels that the costs of leak detection systems can easily be recovered through savings in reduced refrigerant loss.”

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