Collisions between fishing boats and merchant or warships happen frequently in busy water traffic areas.
BEA Mer (the “Bureau Enquête Accidents Mer”, French Marine Casualty Investigation Board) recorded twenty collisions between fishing boats and merchant ships in French waters between December 1997 and November 2001, an average of one every two months. As for accidents in Europe, numerous examples can be quoted.
Collision with an oil tanker:
- On 25 November 1996, collision between the Breton trawler the Iroise and the Maltese oil tanker the Zagara on the north of Ushant shipping lane, causing material damages, injuring two people and leading to a small amount of pollutionby heavy fuel oil.
- On 31 January 2001, the 232 metre-long oil tanker Laura collided the trawler Saint-Pierre from Lorient (Brittany) west of the Hebride Islands (Scotland), causing material damages and injuring two people.
- On 8 May 2001, the Breton trawler Le Royale sank after a collision with the Norwegian oil tanker the Siboti in the Channel.
Collision with a chemical tanker:
- On 15 March 2000, collision off Cap Sao Vicente (Algarve, Portugal) between a Portuguese fishing boat and the chemical tanker the Cervin. The fishing boat sank immediately, but fortunately her eight crew members were saved by the Cervin.
Collision with an unknown ship:
- On 17 May 2001, collision of the Normand trawler the Laval with an unknown cargo ship in the Channel, off Barfleur, caused material damages.
Loss of human life is luckily rare, but it unfortunately can happen. A recent case was the collision of the Japanese training trawler the Ehime with the American submarine USS Greenville south Hawaii in February 2001, as the submarine was practising an emergency surfacing procedure. Nine men drowned with the trawler. As required in the Japanese tradition, the families of the victims expected public apologies from the American Navy. However this would have been a recognition of liability in the American legal regime, and the Navy refused to comply, creating a political incident.
Marine pollution incidents are rare, but they can be considerable and costly. A recent exemple was the collision of the Maltese oil tanker Gudermes, loaded with 26,000 tonnes of hydrocarbons, with the trawler Saint Jacques II from Boulogne (North of France) in front of Dover harbour at dawn on 23 April 2001. This provoked a tank leakage and a spill of 110 tonnes of heavy fuel. On 18 December 2001, the marine court of Boulogne ordered the skipper of the Saint Jacques II to pay a 7,500 euro fine, for breaching circulation and security rules. This sentence allowed the ship owner of the Gudernes and the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency to ask Saint Jacques II and her insurance agent for payment of damages and oil pollution response expenditures.
Other exemples of pollution due to maritime collisions are available in English in the "Spill" file of this website and in french in the “Lettre du Cedre” file.
Allegra, Date: 01/10/1997, Location: Channel
Baltic Carrier, Date: 29/03/2001, Location: Denmark
Gino, Date: 28/04/1979, Location: France
Chung Mu, Date: 09/03/1995, Location: China
Vitoria, Date: 23/06/1987, Location: France
Atlantic Empress, Date: 19/07/1979, Location: Caribbean
Sea Spirit, Date : 08/08/1990, Location: Gibraltar