Leading article

Royal Navy response to trawler collision unacceptable

Marine inspectors have delivered a damning verdict on the actions of a Royal Navy submarine which dragged an Ardglass trawler at speed through the Irish Sea, endangering the lives of its four crew.

It was April 2015 when the Karen's nets were snagged by the submarine 15 miles from its home port in Co Down and pulled backwards.

Thankfully the crew managed to release wires connecting the nets to the trawler but the Marine Accident Investigation Branch concluded that if this had not happened it is inevitable the Karen would have capsized.

In the immediate aftermath of this terrifying incident the British government denied the Royal Navy was involved and there was even speculation at the time that it was the Russian navy.

It was September last year before the Ministry of Defence confirmed it was a British submarine that damaged the Karen and apologised for the incident.

It is clear that this lack of openness and cooperation extended to the marine investigators who said: ``Regrettably, the reluctance of the Royal Navy to fully engage in the subsequent investigation resulted in this report taking significantly longer to deliver than would normally be the case.''

This is a matter of serious concern and requires further explanation from the defence ministry. It is bad enough that a submarine should be responsible for almost causing a trawler to capsize but to fail to own up in the first place and then hamper the crucial investigation is completely unacceptable.

Another worrying aspect of this potentially catastrophic incident is the fact that the lessons of the 1990 Antares tragedy seem to have been forgotten.

The trawler sank in the Firth of Clyde with the loss of four crew after its nets became entangled with a Royal Navy submarine.

Subsequently, the navy established a number of measures aimed at preventing a similar collision happening again as well as a requirement to immediately surface to check if a crew was safe if something did happen.

That did not happen in the case of the Karen with the marine board finding that evidence of a collision `was either not observed or misinterpreted.'

All this is profoundly disturbing and it will leave fishing crews using the Irish Sea understandably worried about their safety.

The British government must set out the steps that will now be put in place to ensure trawlers will not be put at risk by its submarines and that any incidents that do occur are swiftly admitted.

This terrifying ordeal was bad enough but rather than the British government engaged in an inexcusable 's denial that a Royal Navy vessel was involved, which led to speculation that the Russians


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