COLUMBIA RIVER - Thirteenth Coast Guard District personnel will be conducting vessel safety spot checks and voluntary dockside exams in various Northwest ports through Nov. 28, just prior to the opening of the Oregon and Washington state Dungeness crab fishery.

This outreach effort is part of "Operation Safe Crab," the Coast Guard's continuing initiative to reduce the number of fishermen's lives lost at sea. Commercial Dungeness crabbing vessels operate in some of the winter's worst weather, in hazardous exposed waters, and have the highest fatality rate of any West Coast fishery.

Coast Guard examiners will be spot-checking primary lifesaving equipment and pot loading practices on vessels while in port. These spot checks of freeboard and watertight integrity, survival suits, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and liferafts are meant to ensure that these critical safety items are ready for use should an at sea emergency occur. Similar at-the-dock checks in previous years found that between one-quarter and one-third of EPIRBs and liferafts were installed improperly. Most of these deficiencies were easily corrected on-the-spot. Fishermen are advised that extremely serious discrepancies, such as overloading, lack of watertight integrity, missing primary lifesaving equipment, or non-functioning EPIRBs may result in a vessel being restricted from operating until the deficiencies are corrected.

In addition to the checks, Coast Guard fishing vessel safety personnel are available to conduct basic safety training, as well as voluntary dockside safety examinations for interested vessels.

Any questions regarding "Operation Safe Crab," or the availability of voluntary dockside exams should be directed to Dan Hardin, the 13th Coast Guard District Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator, at 206-220-7226, or (dhardin@pacnorwest.uscg.mil).

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