Northern Ireland

Navy submarine put lives on County Down trawler 'at risk'

An investigation has found the actions of a Royal Navy submarine put the lives of the crew of a Co Down trawler at risk
Image caption An investigation has found the actions of a Royal Navy submarine put the lives of the crew of a Co Down trawler at risk

The actions of a Royal Navy submarine put the lives of the crew of a County Down trawler at risk, an accident investigation has found.

Fifteen miles off Ardglass, the Karen had its nets caught and was dragged backwards for 30 seconds last April.

It had four crew on board when it almost capsized and was only saved when its net snapped.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch said it was due to the submarine command team's "insufficient planning".

They had also "failed to follow guidance on fishing vessel avoidance", it said.

The collision presented a significant risk to the submarine based at Faslane in Scotland, the report said.

Image caption Mr Murphy said he was "furious" at the delay in accepting responsibility for the accident.

The skipper of the Karen, Paul Murphy, said the Royal Navy had been playing "Russian roulette" in the Irish Sea that day.

He said any one of 61 trawlers in the area could have been involved.

He added he was "furious" at the delay in accepting responsibility for the accident.

He said if submarines could not come down the Irish Sea "safely dived then they'll have to come down on the surface".

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Media captionSubmarine 'should not have been going at speed it was', marine accident investigator Steve Clinch says

The Royal Navy had shown "reluctance to fully engage" in the investigation and that had delayed the report.

It was five months before the Royal Navy confirmed one of its submarines had been involved and 10 months before it provided evidence to the inquiry.

The report found the submarine had concluded that the Karen was a merchant vessel and it could pass under it safely.

That was because it did not hear the sonar noise associated with trawling.

It did not know it had snagged the Karen until three hours later and so did not surface immediately to help.

The command team had "assessed that the majority of shipping contacts in the area were merchant vessels".

In fact, most were trawlers, something the inquiry said was "predictable" and should have been identified as a risk.

The report recommends the Royal Navy reviews training and procedures.

It said it should also provide reassurances to defence ministers and the fishing industry that lessons have been learned.

Image caption Skipper Paul Murphy estimated the damage caused to his trawler would cost about £10,000 to fix

Steve Clinch, of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, said the submarine should not have been going at the speed or depth that it was.

"There is no reason why she should have been doing what she was," he said.

"The navy need to look at that and make sure that their commanders adhere to the code."

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: "We have expressed our regret and remain sorry for the incident and delay in confirming our involvement.

"We've revised our procedures to reduce the risk that such an incident could happen again.

"We're reviewing the report's recommendations and continue to work closely with the maritime community to maximise safety."

Procedures to prevent such accidents were put in place after a similar incident off Scotland in 1990.

Then the four man crew of the trawler Antares died when their trawler sank.

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