• September 8, 2015


As name calling and finger pointing start following the belated admission of the United Kingdom that one of its submarines snagged the Irish trawler Karen four months ago the Celtic League have called on the IMO to act.

In a letter to the IMO Secretary General the DOI of the Celtic League says the issue transcends the actions of one country and rigorous compliance with IMO Resolution A709 917) is required from all submarine operating powers in European waters (text below):

“The Secretary-General
Mr. Koji Sekimizu
International Maritime Organisation
4 Albert Embankment


Dear Secretary General Sekimizu,

You will recall that we wrote to you in April this years concerning Resolution A709 (17) concerning the interaction of submarines with Motor Fishing vessels.

Because of heightened tensions between NATO and the Russian Federation we had written to all the powers that operate in Northern Europe and also United States and Russian Federation asking what steps they were taking to comply with its provisions we highlighted the relevant section as follows:

“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.”

Only the German government and the United Kingdom responded.

The assurance from the German government was extremely robust and they pointed out:

“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.”

The United Kingdom as indicated also responded robustly and referred us to its Code for Submariners.

However this week, and several months after an incident it initially denied, the UK has admitted one of its submarines snagged a Irish fishing vessel (MFV Karen) off the coast of Co Down

It is clear that, the German Navy aside, the dangers associated with submarine operations in areas of sea fishery very still not being taken seriously by submarine operating powers. Although in this instance the UK is ‘in the dock’ assurances over the application of IMO A 709 (17) have not been provided by the other countries we contacted (United States, Russian Federation, France, Spain. Netherland, Norway etc) either.

Paradoxically the UK’s admission over the MFV Karen comes as an inquest is underway into the deaths of several fishermen a decade ago off Cornwall when the MFV Bugaled Breizh sank. Many suspect submarine involvement.
I feel sure the ‘name pointing’ and ‘blame game’ will see politicians criticize the UK over coming days and to a certain extent this has started. However this issue is complex and over ten countries operate submarines in European coastal waters.

We therefore urge you Secretary General to use the good Offices of the IMO to prevail upon all submarine operating powers full compliance with Resolution A709.17.

We also ask that you seek assurances that compliance with IMO A709 (17) forms part of the training of submariners as it does already in the German Navy.

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information
Celtic League”

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TEL (UK)624 491609

Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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