Seamen say they did not know area of collision was fishing grounds

Owners of the vessels have sued each other for damages alleging negligence

Two seamen aboard a cargo ship that was involved in a collision with a fishing boat off the Kerry coast told the High Court they did not know they were in a fishing area.

Third officer of the Hong Kong-registered Hu Sheng Hang bulk carrier, Wang Dow Ping, said, as far as he was aware, the area he was in was not a fishing ground.

Able Seaman Xu Han, who was also on the bridge of the bigger ship at the time of the collision, said he did not know anything about it being a fishing area.

Mr Han also told the court that the fishing vessel, the Kirrixhi, accelerated at speed in a straight line before the collision.


Both seamen gave evidence through an interpreter via video link from China.

The collision occurred just before midnight on October 11th/12th, 2019 between the Kirrixhi and the Hong Kong-registered Hua Sheng Hai about 24 nautical miles northwest of Inishtearaght Lighthouse on one of the Blasket Islands off the coast of Co Kerry.

The vessel owners have sued each other for damages alleging negligence against each other. The court is first dealing with the question of who was liable.

Hua Sheng Hai Ltd, which had chartered the bulk carrier from a subsidiary of the Chinese Cosco group, says the fishing vessel skipper was not watching where he was going in what it alleges was the “worst possible watch-keeping standard”.

MV Rochelaise de Peche SA, the Kirrixhi owner, says it was the bulk carrier that failed to keep a proper lookout in circumstances where it spotted the fishing vessel some distance away and failed to properly assess the trawler’s position. The bulk carrier failed to observe “give way” rules for fishing boats, failed to properly monitor the fishing vessel movements and failed to have regard to the size of the Kirrixhi, it is claimed.

The 229m bulk carrier, loaded with 44,000 tonnes of bauxite for Aughinish Alumina in Limerick, was 121 times the length of the fishing vessel. Five fishing vessel crew members were injured, three of them requiring treatment in Dingle hospital due to the collision, the court heard.

Under cross-examination on Wednesday by Glen Gibbons SC, for the Kirrixhi owners, AB seaman Han said he did not know about Valencia radio having made contact with the bulk carrier or that it did not receive a response from it for 30 minutes.

He was familiar with the master’s standing order of Cosco ships in relation to keeping two nautical miles from other vessels and that in those circumstances the ship must change from autopilot to hand steering.

He said he obeyed the instructions of the second officer who was on the bridge with him that night.

AB seaman Han and third officer, Wang Dow Ping, who handed over the watch that night to the second officer, both told the court they did not know it was a fishing area.

Under questioning from Mr Justice Denis McDonald, officer Wang, said there was no information about a fishing area in the ship’s on-board electronic system.

This was an area the ship had to pass through to get to Ireland and “I am certain there is no fishing in that area”, he said.

Officer Wang also said there was a discussion during the watch handover about paying attention to the Kirrixhi, which had been spotted through binoculars and was shown on radar.

The case continues.