• September 18, 2015


The link below is to a parliamentary debate on the interaction between submarines and motor fishing vessels (MFVs)


It presented a real opportunity for MPs from Scotland and the North of Ireland to get answers about the MFV Karen incident (which the MOD has admitted) and the still unresolved issue of the MFV Aquarius from Scotland.

The DUP MP Jim Shannon was on the right ‘tack’ in focusing on the RN Code of Practice and Subfax but rather than be specific i.e. citing the actual breaches of the Code that he felt had not been adhered to he generalised at length with other colleagues joining in periodically.

MOD Minister Penny Mordaunt must have thought it was her lucky day as the MPs effectively talked the debate out of time and did not specifically put the MOD ‘in the dock’ over breaches to the Code.

Let us be clear the Code and Subfax were introduced after the MFV Antares incident in which all the Antares crew members died. The MOD conducted a major PR exercise to recover their reputation and staked all on the Code. It is clear that in this case and possibly others the Code is not being adhered to.

If Jim Shannon was lacking in direction then his SDLP colleague Margaret Ritchie was ‘all at sea’. Ritchie expressed surprise there were submarines ‘exercising’ in the Irish Sea. Basic research would have told her that there have been designated submarine exercise areas in the Irish Sea for decades and Admiralty PEXA charts warn that the area to the west of the Isle of Man and the area to the South where the Sheralga was sunk in 1982 are designated areas. For goodness sake, even the comparatively shallow waters to the east of the IOM have submarine exercise areas.

The N Ireland MPs lacklustre performance was only ‘bettered’ by the SNP contribution which can only be described as pathetic. Their MP did not seem to be aware that there was a Code despite it having been introduced as a result of the MFV Antares tragedy.

This debate mattered because the MOD should have explained why there were.

a) No proper subfax warnings
b) The B/f Coastguard were apparently unaware of submarine exercise activity
c) The Code (in several instances) was breached
d) Delays in admitting to RN involvement

It mattered also because at this very time an inquest in Cornwall is considering the deaths of fishermen (MFV Bugaled Breizh) in circumstances which point firmly towards submarine activity.

It matters because since the MFV Karen incidents further events have occurred of Donegal in which RN vessels have failed to abide by the Code and also IMO guidelines.

DUP member Jim Shannon I feel sure is absolutely sincere in wanting to address this issue and make the Irish Sea safer not just for the fishermen of Co Down but for all fishermen. He asked many of the most pertinent questions in the debate but the manner in which the debate progressed allowed Penny Mordaunt to get ‘of the hook’ and eventually (although further clarification is promised) it ran out of time.

Of course no one asked the most important question because despite the MOD being in the dock at least they have admitted their submarine was the offender this time. Had this been a submarine from another power and had the Karen been sunk we may never have found out what happened.

The UK government needs to sharpen up on its Code but it also needs to take action at the IMO to ensure that US. Russian, French, German, Dutch etc submarines apply similar safety standards.

One thing is certain for fishermen this problem is set to continue and an NATO Russian tension grows get worse!


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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