The effectiveness of port state measures (PSM) is never as strong as when authorising unloading in the port where the fish leaves the vessel. For PSM to work, one needs a sound system of notifications of vessel arrival and pre-boarding intelligence analysis on the identity, licensing and manoeuvring of the incoming fishing vessels. It is also fundamental to have independent access to the fishing vessel while it is anchored in the lagoon. This access is essential for boarding inspection and the estimation of transhipment volumes by the port monitors.

Almost three years ago, the boarding officers’ team of the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) and I, as the offshore fisheries adviser funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, finished the technical specifications for an ideal boarding boat able to transport boarding officers and transhipment monitors safely. Now two boats have arrived!

Based on a lot of research and personal experience, we chose an IRB (inflatable rigid boat) with some special qualities. The boats, pictured above, are made of marine-grade aluminium. They are surrounded by a heavy-duty, military-grade, foam-filled Hypalon (synthetic rubber) tube. This will allow the IRBs to resist the heavy hits against the hull of a fishing boat that occur when a boarding boat is rafted up while the inspectors are on board.

Our IRBs incorporate safety seats, a solid boarding platform to make boarding vessels safer in rough weather, communication and safety equipment, and secure and stable tow points at the bow and stern for boarding lines. They also have four heavy-duty lifting lugs to wet deck with rope hook lifting lines, lights, and a secure dry stowage area for gear.

And if all this wasn’t enough, they had to be of a size that could fit at least diagonally in a container so that they could be transported safely to Majuro!

The process was under the World Bank procurement framework, which included many mails and procedures, but it was all worth now that the two new PSM and transhipment monitoring boats have arrived in Majuro. Now they are waiting for the fast wharf-side deployment crane to arrive.

The IRBs will become a fundamental part of MIMRA’s PSM and port management operation framework in Majuro, the world’s busiest tuna port. The other essential elements are the operations room with all the Maritime Domain Awareness tools and the operational hardware that include apps on rugged tablets that connect to MIMRA’s Information Management System and wireless scales.

 

Photo of IRB by senior fisheries officer Beau Bigler