Sinn Féin MP for South Down Chris Hazzard has called for an end to British submarine activity in the Irish Sea after a Royal Navy submarine was involved in a ‘near-miss’ with a ferry.

Chris Hazzard is an Irish Sinn Féin politician who has been the Member of Parliament for South Down in Northern Ireland since the 2017 general election. Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats in Parliament.

Mr Hazzard said the incident highlighted the need for the Irish Sea to become a “submarine free zone” in remarks reported by The Irish News here.

“The confirmation by the British Ministry of Defence that a Royal Navy submarine was involved in a near-miss with a ferry in the Irish Sea has raised serious questions.

The lives of those on board the ferry were put at risk.

The British government and the British Ministry of Defence should end its submarine activity in the Irish Sea to avoid similar incidents in the future.”

A Stena Line spokesman confirmed its ferry “came into close proximity” with a submerged submarine during a scheduled crossing between Cairnryan and Belfast however he pointed out that the lives of those on board the ferry were not, in fact, at risk.

“At no stage were the vessel, passengers or crew in any danger,” he added.

The incident involved the MS Stena Superfast VII, a ferry owned by Stena Line and operated on their service between Belfast and Cairnryan. The vessel is capable of transporting 1,200 passengers and 661 cars.

The Royal Navy has not confirmed which of its submarines was involved.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) said in a release:

“In November, we were notified of a close-quarters incident between the ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off) ferry Stena Superfast VII and a submarine operating at periscope depth.

We have carried out a preliminary assessment of the evidence in this case and the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has decided to open a safety investigation. The investigation is being conducted with the full co-operation of the Royal Navy. A report will be published when our investigation has concluded.”

A Royal Navy spokesman said:

“We can confirm the sighting of a Royal Navy submarine between Belfast and Stranraer on 6 November 2018. We are co-operating with the MAIB investigation.”

The Royal Navy has not confirmed which of its submarines was involved.

48 COMMENTS

  1. ‘Mr Hazzard said the incident highlighted the need for the Irish Sea to become a “submarine free zone” in remarks reported by The Irish News here.’
    How many Russian submarines does he think go down the Irish Sea on a regular basis. Especially if the RN did actually agree to his silly request.

  2. We all know who your ‘Friends’ are though, Mr. Hazzard. They haven’t gone away, have they? They put lives at risk at an almost daily basis.

    And they’re far more a threat to our peace and security than our submarine fleet, especially after events in Londonderry over the weekend.

    • The above quote from the RN spokesman confirms there was an RN boat in the area, which makes it highly likely it was, but the Silent Service is like special forces: the MoD is highly resistant to providing confirmations on where each boat is.

      Realistically, it can only be either an RN boat or possibly Russian. To my knowledge there haven’t been any USN visits to the Clyde recently, so that rules them out. A Russian boat in the Irish Sea would be an incredibly aggressive move from them

      • I’d put money that the Russians still have their intelligence trawlers in the area and it wouldn’t be unheard of for them to have a sub at the north end. Best way to know if the Russians are ther is if a T boat sails when the next new A boat does.

  3. Perhaps the RAF can stop having “near misses” with Russian bombers over Eire in future too then, although if Corbyn gets in, he’d send up the Red Arrows as a welcome party no doubt!

  4. On the ‘surface’ this seems to be another situational awareness or command failure. Ambush actually collided with a tanker at periscope depth, and now a ‘close call’ with a ferry. I’m not a submariner, but surely the passive sonar on modern submarines is good enough to plot noisy slow moving traffic. IF rough seas, ambient noise or other conditions are preventing an accurate reading on your nearest target, given the Ambush example, why would a Captain risk going to periscope depth just for a ‘look see’?
    This may turn out to be a Captain, who knew exactly where the ferry was, coming to periscope depth at a perfectly safe distance / position from the ferry. Overaction from a commercial crew is much preferable to the alternative of a second command failure in such a small force.

    • I hope so Graham. The problem is that, for instance, according to an FOI to the MOD, one of the problems blamed for difficulties in staffing its subs is the Royal Navy’s “embarrassing” public image.

      Things like this don’t help.

      The Duncan 3-parter was good, but what it really needs is a fiction series. There’s probably more people in the UK know the name of the Hammersley than the Ambush.

      It worked for the Yanks.

  5. It’s The Irish Sea in name only Mr Hazzard. You don’t actually own it past territorial waters, and you have no control over U.K. navigation/military assets within the economic zone, unless their crew starts fishing.
    Ditto India=Indian Ocean, China=South China Sea…
    I suppose you’re just another Hazzard the Royal Navy will have to get around?
    Besides, give it a little more time for Corbyn to take power, and you won’t have the problem of submarines…

    • Even in their own waters it is theirs only so long as they can legally claim real “clear and persistent” police power over it. Considering the Irish Navy’s size and their complete lack of fast jets to patrol air space (which they have an agreement with the UK to patrol for them). Their waters and airspace are theirs only to the point where the UK (or anyone else for that matter) let’s them keep them.

    • “China=South China Sea…”

      Actually, China is claiming both the South China Sea and the East China Sea (and all islands within) as part of their territorial waters for the very same reason : “China” is in the name of the seas. Not Joking.

  6. The MP has a point, given the potential loss of life of civilian craft and the damage that would be done to the navy something has to be done.

    • That ferry would make mincemeat of a sub. The passengers on it would have been absolutely fine, the RN crew potentially not so much.

    • Something has to be done?
      Yes fine the operator of the ferry for improper operation of a motor vessel and impound it until the idiot pays or it is sold off for lack of payment on the bill.
      The MP can go get bent. “Potential loss of life”- the biggest crock of shit ever uttered by man or politician. There is potential loss of life in every action and inaction in daily life. Waking up in the morning is not guaranteed, you can make breakfast and blow up your house with the stove, on the way to work you can be stabbed or smashed flat by a bus. Do not ever let a political apparatchik make policy on the basis of “potential” loss of life real or imaginary.

      • Ummm actually governments have to put in safety related laws and legislation or most of us would all be dead in short order…….. let’s just remove driving licences, speed limits,MOTs, road signs, stop lights, drink driving laws, safe levels of poisons in foods, building regs, laws on murder and man slaughter, aviation laws, hell legal tests made against people like me who can end up killing in droves if our practice is poor or just lazy….yes remove those laws than ensure we are not just killing people cus we can’t be bothered to do it right or think we can make a bit more money/cut a corner..I can go on.

        Elliot we live our safe western 21c lives protected by laws we don’t even think about, your point about not making policy on the potential loss of life is actually what governments is there for at a very basic level. If not to protect its citizens lives and property what’s the point.

        • Murder = Illegal since the dawn of time and by it’s very nature always results in death not a potential death. I was not talking about traffic lights and stop signs. As I recommended fining the ferryman that inherently means I believe in some regulation. What I am opposed to is stupidity and the over used phrases by politicians to justify anything: “potential loss of life”, “think of the children”, “something must/has to be done”. There is a difference between regulations that are easily are provabley “good” and ones that border on the logically ridiculous. Example in my lifetime lead paint was the standard then there was a crusade to ban it because “What if children eat lead? Think of the children.” Guess what paint still flakes and it will still screw you up if you eat it. Then their was the giant moral panic for “child safety” news flash when I grew up children drank from garden hoses, we laughed at people who smeared the DOW chemical plant called sunscreen on their skin (which causes the cancer they were trying to prevent), we didn’t where a helmet on a bike ever, we felt Moma’s slap and Dad belt when we needed it and were better and we killed the pests with chemicals like DDT. Guess what 99.9% of us lived.
          Building regs for safety? Good. Mandatory inclusion of inane materials to satisfy the green lobby? Corruption and idiocy. Licensing for Doctors and Lawyers? Good. Not allowing conscientious objection to performing certain medical procedures as in some countries? Tyranny. Lawyers required to take client they do not want? Indentured servitude

          No need to lecture on law in Western democracies I made a living enforcing it. So I am very well aware of it’s importance. The point of Government is to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. ANYTHING else is a corruption of it’s purpose.

    • No one here argues with what you say, safer practices may have to be put in place if this is a genuine near miss, and that may even be due to failures on the part of the surface vessels.
      Even in economic zones you have trawlers at risk…but these incidents appear to be less nowadays.
      Submarines, by their very nature, are inherently risky, but essential tools of war. That’s why so many on here praise the crews when the opportunity arises.
      Navigation skills around our coast are essential to our national security, same applies to low level fighters navigating the Mach Loop or the Lakes…North East Scotland…

      The argument/Headline is about a “Submarine Ban”! Which is ridiculous in my view.

  7. Great idea! i’m sure the Russians will comply! Jeremy Paxman once said of politicians; “they’re like a monkey climbing a tree, the higher they get, the worse it looks from below”.

  8. Are we sure this wasn’t members of the travelling community who ‘found’ a ferry and then ‘found’ a empty patch of sea and then ‘found’ a submarine and offered to buy it cash no questions asked to be sure to be sure?

    Check to see if there’s any caravans and or a huge pile of s**t that they usually leave behind left on the seabed.

  9. Some of the comments would make you despair.

    I think more to the point is – what is a sub doing near a well-known main ferry route, which would for fuel efficiency be within limited parameters, and has 6 or more crossings daily if you include freight?

    And the range of possible answers would include perfectly proper reasons which we might legitimately never hear about.

    • You only have to google Russian Submarines in UK waters, to get a better insight into why we depend so much on our own submarine fleet, and its freedom to roam.

      Corbyn tells us that if we are nice and kind to Russia and other potential enemies, we won’t need a submarine fleet. In fact, he’s even stated that we don’t need an army, as long as we ourselves, don’t pose a threat to others!

      I often wonder what planet Corbyn lives on!

      • Exactly Ian, though I don’t comment on the Corbyn part 🙂

        As far as defence is concerned I guess you could say any politician of any flavour is a neccessary, errr, obstacle.

  10. Well the Irish Sea would be classed as a transit passage, which means according to unclos the UK could not pass a law to prevent submarines from passing even if they wanted to………

  11. It is very difficult to argue any specific point, as we don’t know enough detail to make any sensible comment. how close the sub was?, what was it’s course relevent to the ferry?, what was it was doing ?, ie it might have been practising a shadow of the ferry, hence would have been under very tight and full control, what were the relative speeds etc…. Also there are areas marked in the area denoting submarine area, so well done to the ferry for spotting the sub and keeping a proper watch. I am sure there are similarly many sub sightings by merchant vessels thst are simply noted in the log. Strikes me as storm in Irish teacup.

  12. Considering how many people Sinn Fein murdered during the troubles, I’m struggling to believe they’re suddenly so concerned about the welfare of ferry passengers!

  13. Chris Hazzard a career politician has shown himself to have zero maritime understanding or knowledge. I would highly recommend he conducts his own research and educate himself into maritime affairs, before making sweeping statements about a subject he obviously knows nothing about. Some would call it engaging brain before mouth. Sorry for a moment I forgot, he’s a politician, incapable of the engaging brain before mouth.

  14. I am sure that there will be dozens of solutions offered to the problem of moving a nuclear submarine from Faslane to the Arctic Circle without using the Irish Sea and I’m guessing that most of them will be impractical!!! Surely the answer is to ban all ferries to Southern Ireland from English and Scottish ports.

    • The Irish Sea has many busy shipping lanes and is probably almost as busy an area as the Channel but the Ferry routes are regular and well documented. A modern Sub should have no problem navigating these waters and one wonders to what extent the report is accurate or “a-la-Mail” sensationalist?
      ps do they still run the Ferry out of Heysham and Liverpool to Belfast? Did the true as a child many times in the 1950’s.
      As to Chris Hazzard-even trying not to be prejudiced, his comments are not about safety but just the usual at every opportunity, dig at anything British

  15. Perhaps the idiot should concentrate on getting back to his day job in serving the Northern Irish community by sitting back down in the assembley.

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