Second submarine ‘towing’ incident sparks concerns

File photo of a submarine. Irish skipper Paul Murphy claimed a submarine had 'towed' his fishing boat. Picture: Contributed
File photo of a submarine. Irish skipper Paul Murphy claimed a submarine had 'towed' his fishing boat. Picture: Contributed
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A FISHING boat skipper who claims that a Russian submarine may have snagged itself on his trawler as it fished off the Outer Hebrides says a second such suspected incident in the Irish Sea raises fresh concerns.

The skipper of an Irish trawler has said the boat was towed by a submarine 18 miles off the coast of Ardglass, County Down, on Wednesday afternoon.

“I don’t know which submarine we encountered - Allied or otherwise - just that we did. It is the only possible explanation and we were lucky, just like this trawler in the Irish Sea”

Angus Macleod

Paul Murphy said damage had been caused to the trawler, Karen, and his crew were lucky to escape unharmed.

He said a submarine snagged their nets and the boat was dragged backwards at speed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it did not comment on submarine activity.

Mr Murphy said the incident happened at a point known as the Calf of Man not far from the Isle of Man.

Europe’s biggest war games are currently taking place off the west coast of Scotland. Exercise Joint Warrior involves more than 50 ships, including submarines.

Meanwhile the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said that it was still conducting enquiries into the previous reported incident in which Angus Macleod said he and his four crew were “extremely lucky” after his net was continually dragged in front of his 62ft boat off Lewis.

The Royal Navy has said there were no British or Nato submarines in the area at the time.

There has been speculation in recent months that Russian subs have been operating off the Scottish coast.

A spokesman for the MAIB said it was still gathering information before deciding to formally open a full investigation.

“We are aware of the incident. A decision about whether or not to investigate will be taken in due course,” he said.

Mr Macleod’s wooden Aquarius boat was fishing for haddock, monkfish and skate about 10 miles east of the Butt of Lewis in 360ft of water on March 10 when the incident happened.

Yesterday Mr Macleod, 46 from Barra said:”This incident in the Irish Sea is very worrying. Fishermen need to feel safe to fish from submarines.

“I don’t know which submarine we encountered - Allied or otherwise - just that we did. It is the only possible explanation and we were lucky, just like this trawler in the Irish Sea. There needs to be an open and transparent investigation.

“Since we reported our incident other fishermen have contacted me to say have also had similar encounters over the years. We need honest answers for the sake of safety.

“I have been at sea for 30 years - and between the five of us there is 110 years experience - and in our collective times we have never experienced anything like that. It was definitely not a whale.”

Mr Macleod said his boat suffered about £10,000 of damage in the incident, with his trawler having to be towed back to port by the Stornoway lifeboat when its steering developed a fault. He is still waiting the MAIB’s results of tests on a sheered bolt caused by the accident.

The crew are now back at sea fishing in the local area.

Four fishermen died in the Firth of Clyde in 1990 when the Scottish trawler Antares was dragged under by the nuclear-powered HMS Trenchant submarine.

In November, the UK called on the help of aircraft from Nato allies after a reported sighting of a submarine periscope off the west of Scotland.

The search continued for several weeks, with planes from the US, France and Canada flying out of RAF Lossiemouth.

The MoD would not confirm it was looking for a foreign submarine, but there has been an increase of Russian military activity in recent months.

Earlier this week, RAF Typhoon jets were scrambled from Lossiemouth after Russian aircraft were seen close to UK airspace.

Russian naval vessels have also been passing through the English Channel, reportedly on their way to anti-aircraft exercises in the Atlantic.

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