Fishing boats to be fitted with radio beacons
New rules are being introduced to force every small fishing boat to be fitted with special radio locator beacons.
In an attempt to save lives and improve safety, skippers will be ordered to have electronic devices to alert search and rescue teams to their position in the event of an accident.
Some 800,000 euro is being made available over the next three years to pay for the scheme.
The plan is part of new regulations and initiatives announced by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in Union Hall, Cork where five men died in a fishing disaster last year.
"I firmly believe we can and must do more to prevent tragedies such as those we have seen in the recent past," Mr Varadkar said.
"The bottom line is that we can pass any law we like, but if it is not enforced and we do not have a culture of zero tolerance in regard to non-compliance, we will continue to lose loved-ones at sea in the coming years."
Alongside regulations to enforce the use of the float free self-activating Epirbs, or Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacons, the new scheme will provide grants to refit old beacon systems.
All vessels under 15m must carry the Epirb and Bord Iascaigh Mhara will run the fit-out with 60% of the cost of equipment covered for vessels under 12m, and 40% for larger ones.
Grants will also be made available for boats to be fitted with auto-pilot alarm systems but a decision has not been taken on whether they should be mandatory. Wireless engine cut-offs are also being encouraged.
The scheme will also offer enhanced safety training every five years for skippers and fishing crews.
The village of Union Hall was selected for the launch after the Tit Bonhomme fishing vessel sank on rocks at the entrance to Glandore harbour in January last year. Only Egyptian crew member Abdelbaky Mohamed, 43, survived after he was washed out of the wheelhouse while trying to put on a lifejacket.
Skipper Michael Hayes, 52, from Helvick, Co Waterford, crewmen Kevin Kershaw, 21, originally from Dublin but living in Clonakilty, Co Cork, and Egyptians Wael Mohamed, 35, Attaia Shaban, 26, and Saied Ali Eldin, 22, drowned.
Only one of the five who drowned was wearing a personal flotation device.
Mr Coveney said the safety initiative was a major step in the right direction.
"This cross Departmental initiative launched here today is testament to this Government's commitment to improving safety in our fishing fleet. It is about learning from past tragedies, and saving lives in the future," he said.
A high level working group on safety in the fishing industry is to report back to the ministers by the end of the year.
"I know this issue is painful for those who have lost friends and loved ones at sea, however, I hope that they can gain some comfort from the knowledge that something concrete is now being done," Mr Coveney said.
"The aim is to save lives, we have to see a culture change in our attitudes to safety, and we all have responsibilities in seeing this common-held desire become a reality."