• September 8, 2015


The admission by the Royal Navy that one of their submarines snagged the Irish Motor Fishing Vessel Karen in April of this year is bound to increase pressure for greater control and regulation over dived submarine operations in coastal waters around the British Isles.

Initially the media tended to the view it was possibly a Russian submarine however we cautioned this was widely speculative as with a large NATO exercise ongoing submarines from the UK, US, Norway, Turkey and yes probably Russia were in the area.

The Celtic League had made a call prior to the incident with the MFV Karen for greater adherence to the International Maritime Organisation Convention which governs this area. In January we wrote to all submarine operating powers asking what steps they took to comply with Convention A709 (17) we did this on the anniversary of the loss of the MFV Bugaled Breizh off the Lizard a decade ago (coincidentally an inquiry is underway into that incident which resulted in the deaths of all on board at the present time).

While waiting on a response to our query the MFV Aquarius was snagged of Scotland in March and then the MFV Karen off the Isle of Man in April.

Only the German governments and United Kingdom (the Dutch Navy has also given assurances in the past) eventually responded positively to our query and it is therefore a ‘turn up for the book’ that they have now admitted responsibility.

Obviously it is good news for the crew of the MFV Karen and no doubt they will get compensation for the damages that occurred but it will also refocus attention on other incidents such as that involving the MFV Aquarius and the tragedy of the MFV Bugaled Breizh.

No doubt the MOD will be condemned for the delay and time taken to own up to this incident and it is a breach not just of the IMO Convention but also their own Code of Conduct.

However in the rush to put the MOD ‘in the dock’ we should not forget that there are about ten countries that have the potential to operate submarines in and around the United Kingdom and until all sign up to a more diligent application of the IMO Convention this problem will continue.

We pressed the Irish government who (at our request in the 1980s moved the precursor to IMO A 709) to renew its efforts at the IMO they indicated some months ago that they were concerned. After the dust has settled over the MOD/RN admission over the Karen there needs to be reflection on the incident and then further action to address the issue for the longer term via the IMO.

The fishermen’s profession is dangerous enough without that danger being further compounded by unregulated military submarine activity.

Thankfully no lives were lost in the MFV Karen incident however over the past four decades many lives have been lost and many incidents still remain unresolved. The area of the Irish and Celtic Seas and the West of the British Isles it seems is still prone to unregulated submarine activity this must change.


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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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