MFV – Submarine incident Navy say its exercise areas are subject to periodic review

The Navy Command Secretariat at the Naval Shore station HMS Excellent at Portsmouth has responded to a query from the Celtic League about an incident between a RN warship (HMS Lancaster) and a Irish MFV from Donegal which occurred in July.

A letter from the Celtic League Assistant General Secretary had said:

“I write with reference to the incident off Donegal when a British warship HMS Lancaster instructed a Irish Motor Fishing Vessel to move because a naval exercise involving ‘Lancaster’ and a RN submarine was in progress. Reports indicate this took place in Irish waters.

“I note that the Royal Navy designate a number of military exercise areas off the north of Ireland specifically PEXA numbers 52, 53 and 64 that abut Donegal and the seas thereof.

“Can I ask how many military exercises warships and submarines have been held in these areas in recent years? Further could I ask if the United Kingdom MOD has given any thought to better delineating these exercise areas so as to alleviate possible hazard to mariners from both the 26 County Republic of Ireland and the six counties of the North?

”In their reply the Navy refused to confirm the frequency of exercises in the areas highlighted. However they say ‘we can assure you that use of our maritime training areas, off the coast of the Republic of Ireland and within International waters , is subject to periodic review’.

In relation to the incident involving the Donegal based MFV the Navy say ‘courteous and professional exchanges between the fishing vessel and HMS Lancaster enabled the lawful exercise to continue and conclude safely, and at no time was there a risk to the safety of either the fishing vessel or the submarine taking part in the exercise’. The letter provides additional information about safety and ‘Fishing Vessel Avoidance’.

There have been no news reports of any Irish government representations to the British government but the comment in the letter about maritime training areas being ‘subject to periodic review’ does beg the question should the Irish government not press to have Exercise areas 52, 53 and 64 which adjoin a area of busy sea fishery for boats from both Ireland and other EU states discontinued.

The Celtic League are grateful to the MOD and (UK) Navy Command Secretariat for providing this clarification promptly.

Image: HMS Lancaster – Inset: AGS Celtic League

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League 9th September 2020)

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