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Submarine dead ahead! How quick-thinking Stena crew avoided collision with Royal Navy vessel

Super fast VII off Cairnryan

A ROUTINE ferry passage across the North Channel when, suddenly, an extraordinary sight... Cutting through the waves was a submarine periscope, meaning the sub was just a few feet below the surface, forcing the ferry to take evasive action to avoid a collision. This was the drama that confronted the crew of a Stena ferry en route for Cairnryan at 12.56 on 6 November 2018 and a long-awaited Marine Accident Investigation Branch into the incident has been released this morning. It concludes: "This was an unsafe event and placed the ferry's passengers and crew, as well as the submarine and its crew, in immediate danger. "Stena Superfast VII's officer of the watch took urgent action to avoid a submerged submarine after its periscope had been spotted close ahead of the ferry. "Post-event analysis showed that, prior to the ferry's course alteration, there had been a serious risk of collision. "This near miss happened because the submarine's control room team had underestimated the ferry's speed and over-estimated its range, resulting in an unsafe situation developing. "However, the submarine's control room electronic tactical display presented a picture of a safer situation than reality; this meant that safety-critical decisions made on board the submarine may have appeared rational at the time." Which submarine was involved has never been confirmed, but there have been suggestions based on the Stena picture of the periscope that it was a Vanguard class submarine, which carries the UK's Trident nuclear missiles. They boast a sophisticated array of sensors that are designed to give a clear picture of the area around them, above and below the surface. The MAIB identified a series of safety issue from the Stena incident, telling the Navy: Safety-critical decisions need to be made based on accurate information Passage planning should identify all potential hazards and effective mitigations Maintaining a good lookout is vital for the safety of all vessels The say the Royal Navy has taken a series of actions in response to this and similar previous accidents. As a result, a safety recommendation has been made to the Admiralty to undertake an independent review to ensure that the actions taken have been effective in reducing the risk of further collision. Emma Harper, South of Scotland MSP, has raised the incident with the Ministry of Defence on a number of occasions. She's said: “I first raised concerns about this incident in November 2018 and I have continued to seek answers from the Scottish and Westminster Governments on a regular basis since then, including with the First Minister directly. “I welcome the publication of this long-awaited report and it appears that there is now a commitment by the Royal Navy to implement specific safeguards to ensure the safety of the ferry passengers, our military personnel and commercial traffic. “It is welcome that the report identifies a number of key actions being taken to avoid similar potential collisions in the future. However, it is also extremely concerning that the report highlights that there have been a number of near misses - rather than the one of which we were previously aware of. “I also endorse a call for an independent inquiry to ensure that the key actions specified will be implemented so that we avoid any near misses between our submarines and crucial ferries in the future. “I will continue to monitor any progress so that people are continued to be kept informed.” A statement from the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents said: "Although there was no collision, this was the third accident or incident between a dived Royal Navy submarine and a surface vessel in four years, which is a matter of significant concern. "The Royal Navy co-operated with the MAIB's investigation into this near miss and has taken a series of actions, intended to prevent recurrence, in response to this, and the other similar incidents. "However, I have today recommended that the Royal Navy undertakes an independent review of the actions that have been taken, in order to ensure that the risk of similar collisions has been reduced to as low as possible."

<< back Published: 16 Jul 2020, 14:41

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