• September 11, 2015


The Celtic League has written to the UK Ministry of Defence asking them to investigate two incidents off Donegal involving a Irish MFV and a submarine (thought to be a British RN Astute Class vessel). The correspondence to Minister of State, Penny Mordaunt MP, is set out below:

“Penny Mordaunt MP
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
Ministry of Defence
Main Building

10th September 2015

Dear Minister,

The Celtic League has corresponded with the UK (and other submarine operating powers) for many years about the dangers posed to Motor Fishing Vessels by Submarines.

In this context I welcomed the recent statement you made which, albeit belatedly, accepted responsibility for the incident some months ago involving the MFV Karen from N Ireland.

I understand that you indicated the submarine was unaware of the incident at the time. However given the nature of underwater acoustics and the type of equipment a modern submarine is equipped with I find this scarcely credible.

You will be aware of the incident in 1982 when the Co Louth fishing boat MFV Sheralga was sunk by a RN submarine (HMS Porpoise) and the crew were abandoned by the submarine in the water. They fortunately were rescued by another fishing vessel.

More tragic was the loss of the Scottish vessel MFV Antares in Bute Sound an incident in which all 4 crew members drowned. The submarine involved (HMS Trenchant) again did not surface and notify the incident until some hours later when the alarm over the MFV Antares had been raised.

I had hoped that the THE UK CODE OF CONDUCT OF PRACTICE on FISHING VESSEL AVOIDANCE would have ensured that there was no repetition of these incidents but the MFV Karen affair must call that into question.

More disconcertingly I note from reports in this weeks Irish Times that a Donegal fishermen alleges a number of incidents in which he has had to take action to avoid collision with a submarine in surface transit (see link):


The area in question has had similar incidents reported in the past. You will be aware from the CODE that a surfaced submarine in transit is required to observe the normal ‘rules of the road’ and the IMO resolution A799 (17) also places the onus on the submarine to avoid the MFV. This does not seem to have happened in the two cases mentioned.

I have no idea if the photograph accompanying the article was taken on the day but if so it would seem to show a RN Astute class submarine.

Can you clarify if submarines of the Royal Navy were in the area at the times mentioned and if so why they failed to observe your own CODE and IMO 799 (17).

Finally to conclude on a positive note the MOD and the Royal Navy should be applauded for admitting responsibility for the MFV Karen affair. Additionally when we wrote to submarine operating powers in Europe asking what steps they took to comply with A799 (17) only the United Kingdom and German governments responded positively and this is welcome.

I will be copying this letter to the IMO (with whom we have already corresponded) and I trust the UK government will cooperate with that body in urging more general adoption by all submarine operating powers of Resolution A799 (17).

I will also be forwarding this correspondence to the Irish government and I trust the United Kingdom will give an assurance that if your submarines or other warships are operating in territorial sea areas also used by Irish fishermen then your own CODE will be strictly applied.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)

Director of Information”

The League have also asked the International Maritime Organisation and the Irish government to press the UK on the issue


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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