Regulations keeping Ross off the open water
FOR Coffs Harbour fisherman Ross Pennisi, the days of dropping lines in the open waters have been replaced with waiting in line at the dole office.
Since 2008, Mr Pennisi has owned and operated the commercial fishing vessel Teanna - exporting tuna and supplying the local market with snapper.
That was until new national standards imposed by the Australia Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) forced his boat to be grounded at its Coffs Harbour moorings in March.
While the standards don't apply to most vessels, unfortunately Mr Pennisi's certificates of survey and operation have lapsed.
In a bid to qualify for new certificates, Mr Pennisi has undertaken $25,000 in upgrades to the boat after six separate inspections by Roads and Maritime Service officials.
But even after dropping four tonnes of weight from the vessel, Mr Pennisi was informed by RMS that his boat had failed to meet stability guidelines regulated by AMSA
"The vessel has been operating for 37 years and we've never had a single problem with stability," Mr Pennisi said.
"If the certificate hadn't lapsed in 2008 by a couple of weeks, then she'd still be fine to take out on the water.
"I have done everything that has been asked and recommended but it's still not good enough. What else can I do?"
An AMSA spokeswoman said the stability standards were incorporated into the national law relating to vessel safety, which came into effect in July 2013.
They were designed to form clear and consistent agreed standards across the country.
But it's little solace to Ross whose loss of income is compounded by mooring and licence fees that are costing him more than $1000 a week.
Mr Pennisi said he's unable to afford further modifications and is calling on officials to allow him back on the open waters.
"On one hand you have a government telling people they need to work, and on the other hand the government is telling me I can't go fishing," he said.
"I sold my house to buy that boat - it is my livelihood."
The matter has now been referred to AMSA where Mr Pennisi has lodged RMS' determination for internal review.