Time For The Royal Navy And NATO To Get Real Over Fishing Vessel Safety

We ask how safe will the seas around Britain and Ireland be during Exercise Joint Warrior.

The NATO exercise Joint Warrior 2016 gets underway next Monday and if previous exercises of this type are anything to go by ships and aircraft will already be in transit to their exercise locations.

Joint Warrior (which is held twice yearly) involves about 50 warships and submarines and a range of aircraft and assault troops. The exercise area can span the entire western coastline of Britain from Cornwall through the Irish Sea up to North Scotland.

Main danger to shipping is from submarines undertaking anti-submarine exercises with surface ships. However there are also live firing exercises particularly in the Cape Wrath area and at sea. Additionally mine-warfare exercises are held.

The exercises poses a threat to fishermen because of the dived submarine activity but in addition military air activity causes a hazard and a number of so called Air Prox incidents have occurred over the years during Joint Warrior and similar exercises.

So what steps do the MOD take to ensure safety? Well in relation to fishermen they broadcast notices of exercise areas. However as far as we can gather there is limited information online about the extent of exercise areas and if say fisherman were to ask for copies of the so called PEXA (Practice and Exercise Area) charts from the MOD they would be told to go and buy copies – they are not cheap!

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency do publish a leaflet (see link):

https://www.gov.uk/…/uploads/attachm…/file/282352/mgn012.pdf

This is a version of the original MSA (1988) leaflet updated in 1997 it shows the exercises areas for subs but does not have the detail for either live firing or mine warfare exercises. The ‘relief’ of the map is also poor and as indicated the leaflet has not been upgraded for two decades.

What it does show though is that busy areas for UK and Irish fishermen such as the Western Irish Sea, North Donegal and the Minch and Western Scotland are all designated submarine exercise areas.

Other safety measures are supposed to include the briefing of warships from Foreign Navies about the RN Code of Practice. However it is unclear whether this is the case.

It is important because in the MFV Karen (Co Down fishing vessel) incident last year there was a suggestion a Turkish submarine (hardly a regular visitor to UK waters) was the culprit.

Additionally the MOD (RN) are supposed to designate a Fishing Vessel Safety Ship (this function can be undertaken by an aircraft) its role is to provide information to operational submarines about fishery activity in their area. Again the JW exercise information makes no mention of this.

Surely if the MOD is serious about the safety of fishermen and other mariners they would post on line at an easily accessible web site:

1) Details of the exercise participants in full
2) The Code of Practice
3) A clear map of all submarine and related military exercise areas
4) Information about a FVSS

Finally the MOD should review the Submarine / MFV separation zone which is currently supposed to be 1500 yards at periscope depth and 4000 yards when deeper. Obviously that safety margin did not work in the case of the MFV Karen or others.

Image: Turkish submarine – One involved in last years exercise it was suggested was involved in the Karen incident so are Foreign Navies involved in these exercises briefed an the RN safety code?

BERNARD MOFFATT

Issued by: The Manx branch of the Celtic League

TEL: 01624 877918 or 07624 491609

07/04/16

THE CELTIC LEAGUE

The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. 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

The link for the main web pages is below:

https://celticleague.net

Mannin Branch Celtic League's photo.
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