Foreign vessel accused of attempting to ‘sabotage’ Shetland fishing boat

Alistair Carmichael has called on the fisheries minister to intervene in a “truly shocking” incident involving a foreign vessel off the Unst coast.

The Orkney and Shetland MP highlighted the dangerous case of the French-flagged longliner Antonia Maria during a debate in parliament yesterday (Thursday).

Mr Carmichael asked fisheries minister Mark Spencer whether he had seen the shocking video captured by crew on the Shetland trawler Defiant, as the Spanish boat tried to ram them then foul their propeller with a rope.

“The footage is truly shocking, but the real scandal is that this is not the first time it has happened; it is at least the third documented incident in recent times,” Mr Carmichael said.

“This will keep happening unless something is done to stop it, so will the minister speak to his colleagues in the Department for Transport and the foreign office to make sure that France, as the flag state with enforcement powers in this case, takes its responsibility seriously?

In response, Mr Spencer said he had seen the footage and agreed it was “truly shocking”.

“This was a deliberate act to try to sabotage a UK fishing boat.

“It was outrageous behaviour. Enforcement is difficult, because the incident involved a Spanish boat under a French flag, but given the seriousness of the event I will most certainly raise it with my ministerial colleagues.”

Fisheries minister Mark Spencer and Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael. 
Fisheries minister Mark Spencer and Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael. 

Reacting after the exchange Mr Carmichael said: “I am glad that the minister was aware of the incident and will take it up with his colleagues but this is hardly the first instance of such misbehaviour in the waters around Shetland.

“Until we find a better way to bring consequences to those who act recklessly at sea then this will keep on happening.

“If direct enforcement is not possible outside of territorial waters then the government needs to look at indirect methods.

“Other countries to stop this aggressive behaviour. It cannot be beyond the wit of man for our own government to do the same.”

Shetland Fishermen’s Association has called for a meeting with Mr Carmichael and the Maritime Coastguard Agency to find a way of preventing these issues.

The SFA’s Sheila Keith said the MCA lacked the powers to intervene in any incident taking place more than 12 miles from the coast.

“The MCA urgency needs not only to investigate but to act decisively to ensure this king of behaviour does not occur again,” she said. 

“Otherwise we are going to end up with fatalities at sea.”

The MCA said in a statement it was committed to maritime safety and would investigate any breaches that could put lives at risk.

“If deemed necessary we will raise safety concerns with the relevant Flag State of vessels when appropriate,” it added 

“As an agency, we regulate UK and foreign flag vessels within the 12 nautical mile territorial limit as defined in international law – however the MCA does not have jurisdiction over foreign flagged vessels outside of this area.”


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