• February 22, 2015


The Naval Attaché at the German Embassy in London has responded to a query from the Celtic League about the application of International Maritime Organisation Convention A.709(17) which governs the interaction between submerged submarines and Motor Fishing Vessels (MFVs).

The text of the query from Director of Information, Bernard Moffatt, is set out below

“Last weekend on the anniversary of the loss of the Motor Fishing Vessel, Bugaled Breizh, (in January 2004) a commemoration was held in Brittany by relatives and supporters of those crew members who died. Many of those affected by this tragedy believe the MFV in question may have been lost due to a collision with a submerged submarine although to date all enquiries to substantiate this theory have proven inconclusive.

The Secretary General of the Celtic League has used the anniversary of the Bugaled Breizh tragedy to call for improved regulation of maritime safety to minimise the number of incidents between MFVs and submerged submarines.

For information – The Celtic League is an organisation with branches in the six Celtic countries (Scotland, Ireland, Mann, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany). It campaigns on a broad range of issues and is recognised as an NGO by the United Nations.

During the period between 1980 and the min 1990s there were a number of sinking’s and damage to MFVs which were in collision with submarines.

In 1982 the MFV Sheralga (from Ireland) was sunk by the British submarine HMS Porpoise in the Irish Sea.

In November 1990 the MFV Antares from Scotland was sunk by the British submarine HMS Trenchant (all hands on board died) in the Clyde.

In 1988 the Yacht Dalraida was in collision with HMS Conqueror in the North Channel.

In 1989 the MFV Scotia was snagged by HMS Sceptre near the Isle of Lewis

In addition in the 1980s at least two MFVs (one from N. Ireland and another from the Isle of Man) were snagged and towed for some time by USN nuclear submarines.

There were many more unresolved losses of MFVs in good weather conditions in areas around the British Isles used for dived submarine operations and within which submarines of all the powers we are contacting were known to operate.

The above are just some of the incidents which we have monitored over the years and whilst the Celtic League confines itself to events in waters around the British Isles and off Brittany we are aware that MFV submarine incidents have occurred elsewhere in European waters and indeed globally.

The United Kingdom and United States government have admitted to incidents and paid compensation but we are also aware that boats of all the submarine operating powers including from NATO countries and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) operate in waters around the Celtic countries.

At its 15th Session in November 1987 the International Maritime Organisation after many years of lobbying adopted a resolution to address this problem – Resolution A.599(15).

Resolution A.599(15) was eventually revoked and superceded in November 1991 by IMO Resolution A.709(17)

That resolution in paragraph seven:

“Invites Governments to:

a) bring the above recommendation and the concern expressed in this resolution to the attention of authorities, commanders and officers responsible for operating submarines;
b) develop local arrangements to establish procedures to promote safety of fishing vessels and submarines in areas considered prone to mishaps between fishing vessels and submerged submarines; and
c) ensure that submarines navigating through areas where vessels are known to fish use all reasonably means for determining the presence of such vessels and their fishing gear to avoid endangering such vessels and their gear”

Can we ask since resolution A599(15) and A709(17) were adopted what steps your country has taken to implement it and what initiatives have been taken to give effect to the steps outlined in (a) (b) (c) above.

Yours sincerely”

In their reply, Commander Jan Hackstein, Naval Attaché at the London Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany says:

“Thank you for your letter dated 19th January 2015. You asked for the steps taken by the Federal Republic of Germany to implement IMO Resolution A.709(17) adopted on 06 November 1991 and what initiatives have been taken to give effect to the outlined steps.

I can submit you the following statement of CTF355 German Submarine Operating Authority and Submarine Exercise Area Coordinator to IMO Resolution A.709(17):

“The 1st German Submarine Squadron issued a detailed handbook for submarine commanding officers where orders are specified how to manoeuvre the submarine in relation to fishing vessels. Furthermore this aspect is content of the commanding officer’s log of orders. This log is to be read and signed by each member of the submarine ‘s battle crew. Additionally the Submarine Training Centre conducts permanent Battle Crew Training of submarine officers and sonar crews. It places the main focus on the recognition of a surface and subsurface maritime picture which includes also a large variety of fishing vessels and their type of fishing method in the scenario.

Sonar crews are very well trained in fishing vessel recognition. This includes the composition of propeller shaft and blade configurations and furthermore the recognition of fishing gear by all sensors.”

Commander Hackstein’s response is interesting as our original enquiry centred around the anniversary of the loss of the MFV Bugaled Breizh. A number of German submarines were involved, together with other NATO members submersibles, in an exercise in the area at time (or were transiting the area).

However, given the very swift and thorough application of IMO 709(17) after its adoption in 1991 and also the emphasis placed on its importance in German submariner training it is highly improbable that any submarine of the German Navy was involved in the tragic loss of the Bugaled Breizh.

The Celtic League welcomes the prompt and comprehensive response from the German government.
Other governments contacted have yet to respond.

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).


The Celtic League 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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