Carmichael challenges “impossible” MCA fishing advice putting Harbour Masters at legal risk

18 Oct 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today questioned Maritime and Coastguard Agency advice to fishermen to ask Harbour Masters to sign required medical certificate applications, without consultation.

Fishermen are being required by the government to pass stringent new medical certificate requirements or be barred from working at sea. Media reports, first published in Fishing News, suggest that the MCA gave written advice to fishermen to ask local Harbour Masters to act in lieu of an employer and sign ML5 medical applications, but did not inform Harbour Masters themselves.

Mr Carmichael warned that such a suggestion would be a danger to Harbour Masters in terms of liability and suggested that they seek independent legal advice.

Mr Carmichael said:

“Once again this shows the utter incompetence in how the government treats fishing matters. What is proposed here is to turn the problems of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency into the problems of Harbour Masters. Shifting the problem is not the same as solving it.

“I cannot think of any reason why any Harbour Master would put themselves in that position. It is impossible to see how they would be protected in terms of liability and it represents a clear danger in terms of conflicts of interest. If I were a Harbour Master I would be seeking independent legal advice as a matter of urgency.

“This speaks to the repeated attitude of ministers and officials throughout the last few years. A decision is made somewhere far from those affected, and then the little people are expected to bob and follow orders. It has not worked before and it will not work now.

“We need root and branch reform in how the MCA and other marine agencies operate. They are supposed to have a responsibility to the people and businesses they work into – somewhere along the line they seem to have lost sight of that.”