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MAIB Investigates Near Miss Between Sub and Ropax Ferry

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Royal Navy submarine surfacing during an exercise in 2009 (UK MOD)

By MarEx 2019-01-21 18:09:19

Authorities in the UK have confirmed a previously-unreported near miss between a Royal Navy submarine and a ropax ferry. According to the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), a close approach between the ropax ferry Stena Superfast VII and an unnamed nuclear-powered submarine occurred on November 6, 2018. The sub was 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," said MAIB. “The investigation is being conducted with the full co-operation of the Royal Navy. A report will be published when our investigation has concluded.”

The Royal Navy confirmed that there had been a "sighting" of one of its submarines between Belfast, Ireland and Stranraer, Scotland on November 6. Ferry operator Stena confirmed that the Superfast VII "came into close proximity" with a submerged submarine during a scheduled crossing between Scotland and Ireland. 

“At no stage were the vessel, passengers or crew in any danger," Stena said in a statement. "The incident is now under investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and we will of course co-operate fully in this.”

If the near miss had resulted in contact, it would have been the fifth accident involving a UK submarine since 2010. The HMS Ambush, one of Britain's newest attack submarines, was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel off Gibraltar in 2016; the HMS Talent struck ice in maneuvers while shadowing a Russian vessel in 2015; an unnamed Royal Navy sub snagged the nets of a British fishing trawler in 2015, nearly pulling it under; and the HMS Astute went aground off the Isle of Skye in 2010.  

The U.S. Navy's submarine community has also experienced casualties involving civilian vessels, notably the collision between the USS Greeneville and the Japanese training ship Ehime Maru in 2001. During a demonstration exercise off Oahu, Greeneville's crew executed an emergency ballast blow, sending the sub up into the Ehime Maru's hull. The training vessel sank quickly, killing nine people.