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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 10 Dec 1991

Vol. 414 No. 4

Written Answers. - Alleged Ferry-Submarine Collision.

Patrick McCartan


41 Mr. McCartan asked the Minister for the Marine if he has received any report concerning a collision between the Irish Ferries vessel the St. Patrick II and a submarine on the Rosslare to Le Harve route on 13 June 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I can assure the Deputy that no report of a collision was received by me and that no collision took place between this ferry and a submarine on 13 June.

What may have given rise to this question is an incident which occurred in the English Channel on 13 June last which did involve the St. Patrick II. On that date the Irish Ferries vessel was plying between Rosslare and Le Havre when it was asked — as the closest vessel to the scene — by the UK authorities to deviate from its normal course to stand by a submarine distress beacon which was floating on the surface some 28 miles south of Plymouth.

A submarine distress beacon is a safety device carried by submarines for alerting the emergency services when a submarine is in difficulty. When a submarine is in distress the beacon can be released from the vessel to travel to the surface trailing a line attached to the stricken vessel. When the beacon breaks the surface it emits a continuous radio signal on the distress channel.

The Irish Ferries vessel deviated from its course and after sighting the device steamed around it for between two and a half and three hours at a distance of half a mile approximately. The ferry remained on the scene until it was released by the UK Coastguard and resumed its voyage which it completed without incident. At no time during the incident did the vessel have any contact with a submarine or a submarine distress beacon.
I trust that this clarifies matters for the Deputy.