• April 23, 2015


Following the incident in March when a Scottish fishing vessel was snagged by a submarine off the Outer Hebrides and last weeks further incident when the Co. Down MFV Karen was almost towed under the Celtic League has raised the issue with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The League point out that they predicted an increase in these type of events in January of this year and wrote to all North European submarine operating powers (and the US and Russian Federation) asking them to comply with International seafaring safety regulations designed to address the issue (see link):


To date only the German Navy has responded positively (see link):


The League has urged IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu to press submarine operating powers to comply with IMO Resolution A708.17.

The copy of the letter to the IMO is set out below:

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


Dear Secretary General Sekimizu,

In the mid 1980s the Celtic League concerned at an increasing frequency of incidents involving Motor Fishing Vessels and Submarines caused because of the tensions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact successfully lobbied the Irish Government to raise the matter with the IMO.

You will be aware that subsequently your organisation adopted Resolution A599 and due to further evidence that the problem still persisted in 1991 A599 was superceded by Resolution A709.17.

Subsequently with the end of the Cold War and a withdrawal of large numbers of submarines from Northern European coastal waters the incidence of MFV/Submarine events declined. However it is fair to say that periodically incidents did occur and you may be aware that in relation to the loss of the French (Breton) MFV Bugaled Breizh in January 2004 a Judge led enquiry concluded that the loss of the vessel with all hands was probably caused by an unidentified submarine.

Due to heightened tensions recently between NATO and the Russian Federation we wrote 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 reasonable 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.’

To date and despite a follow-up series of communications only the German government has responded (although the United Kingdom has indicated a reply is pending).

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.”

It is clear that the German Navy take the dangers associated with submarine operations in areas of sea fishery very seriously and one would have hoped that the other countries we contacted (United States, Russian Federation, France, Spain. Netherland , Norway, etc.) would do likewise.

The issue has become a more imperative one in recent weeks. In mid March 2015 a Scottish fishing vessel the MFV Aquarius was snagged by a submarine off the Outer Hebrides and last week the N. Irish fishing vessel MFV Karen was snagged while fishing off the coast of Co. Down in the Irish Sea . In the latter incident the vessel only avoided foundering due to the swift action of the crew in cutting their fishing gear.

We 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 similar to that already given by the German Navy that compliance with IMO A709 forms part of the training of submariners.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League”

Related news links here:

https://www.downnews.co.uk/fisheries-special-minister-oneill-calls-for-clarity-over-submarine-incident/ https://www.manxradio.com/newsread.aspx?id=76289

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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