NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
The Celtic League has written to the Coroner for Cornwall following news that she may undertake an enquiry into the loss of the fishing vessel MFV Bugaled Breizh off the Lizard in January 2004.
The League enclosed information they believe may be helpful to the Coroner (see below);
“Dr. Emma Carlyon
Coroner of Cornwall
14 Barrack Lane
1st July 2015
Dear Dr Carlyon,
I am writing to you because I understand you may open an inquest into the unfortunate deaths of the crew members of the Motor Fishing Vessel Bugaled Breizh which sank of Cornwall in January 2004
I am aware that there has been speculation that the vessel may have foundered as a consequence of being snagged by a submarine. This is one of a number of theories relating to the sinking.
The Celtic League from 1982 onwards until the end of the Cold War compiled a dossier on suspicious incidents involving MFVs and submarines and indeed we campaigned successfully to have the problem recognised as a hazard to fishermen by the International Maritime Organisation. With the assistance of sympathetic TDs in the Irish parliament we did eventually get the Irish government to formally raise the issue with the IMO and the IMO subsequently adopted resolution A599(15) on 17th November 1987 which was itself superseded by A709(17) on the 6th November 1991. This resolution is the International standard governing interaction between submarines and motor fishing vessels.
In addition the Royal Navy follow a code of Practice which can be viewed at this link:
As indicated the scale of the problem caused by submarine activity to MFVs seemed to tail off at the end of the Cold War. We therefore concluded our monitoring although we did periodically correspond with UK Naval authorities about issues including the MFV Bugaled Breizh. The MOD will have copies of this correspondence I feel sure. Our own records relating to the period 1982-2008 are lodged in the Library of Manx National Heritage (there are also additional files/correspondence in the National Library of Wales.
Recently because of heightened cold war tension and specifically a number of incidents in which MFVs have been snagged we once again raised the issue of compliance with International Regulation with all NATO submarine operating powers and the Russian Federation.
I am sorry to say that only two governments responded. First the German government replied very promptly saying training on the requirements of A709 (17) is an integral part of their submariner training. The Royal Navy also sent a response following a further query however although they indicate safety issues such as this are a priority they do not indicate that A709 (17) is integral to this training. I enclose copies of the German Navy and Royal Navy responses.
As indicated other countries have not replied despite follow-up and this is an issue we have now raised with the IMO (see attached). I should however clarify that in correspondence almost two decades ago the Royal Netherlands Navy said that it did comply with IMO provisions at that time the (now superseded) A599.
It is sadly the case that trawler men have one of the most dangerous livelihoods and any number of issues can lead to the catastrophic loss of an MFV.
However I would highlight to you three specific tragedies in which submarines are known or thought to have been involved:
The Irish MFV Sheralga was capsized in seconds 20 miles off the Co Louth coast in 1982. The crew (who fortunately were rescued) believed it was a submarine, The MOD denied involvement but fortunately a member of the Celtic League had taken photograph just hours before of Royal Navy submarine HMS Porpoise on passage towards the area. The MOD eventually admitted responsibility although it was never explained why the shipwrecked fishermen had been left in the water (as indicated above and fortuitously they were rescued by another trawler) Report on adjournment debate in the Dáil refers to Sheralga and other sinking’s link here:
The French (Breton) Trawler Cite DAleth capsized suddenly on 12th January1983 of Wexford. The sinking’s was so sudden that only a partial mayday was sent. All ten men on board were lost.
The Scottish MFV Antares was sunk on the Clyde on 22nd November 1990 within seconds by HMS Trenchant again the submarine did not alert shore based rescuers and only surfaced and notified a possible snagging after one hour. All the crew of Antares drowned. MAIB Report here:
The Welsh MFV Inspire was capsized (5th September 1988) by the wash of a submarine travelling at speed in a semi-submerged state off the coast of mid Wales. One of the two man crew drowned. The evidence of the other (survivor) was enough to have an inquest return a verdict of unlawful killing although the submarine was not identified and the MOD denied responsibility. See link to Parliamentary Answer:
Although a news report by the investigative reporter Nick Davies say’s the RN eventually admitted responsibility. I cannot confirm the accuracy of this.
There are other incidents but what I think is crucial about these few examples is that they prove interaction between submarines and MFVs invariably results in the vessel sinking within seconds. Other instances of foundering e.g. the snagging of an undersea object invariably give the crew enough time to either put out a specific mayday or launch safety rafts.
I hope you will find this information helpful to your enquiry and I also hope that you are able to assist the unfortunate relatives of those lost on the MFV Bugaled Breizh to get closure.
Sadly I know from dealing with relatives from many such tragedies over the years how agonising it is when they cannot get answers.
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Correspondence: German Naval attaché London Embassy
Correspondence: International Maritime Organisation – Maritime Safety Division
Correspodence: RN Navy Command – Portsmouth”
The Celtic League has monitored Submarine/MFV interaction for decades (see archive news report 1980s – CL contribution 10 minutes in):
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)
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The Celtic League was established in 1961and has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues
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