Immediate action on sea safety recommendations is demanded

 

THE Irish Fishermen's Federation (IFF) has called on the Minister for the Marine to implement tougher safety rules immediately".

This follows the rescue by an RAF Sea King helicopter of four crewmen from a sinking fishing boat off the south-east coast yesterday. The vessel foundered in moderate sea conditions.

The IFF wants the Minister to implement the recommendations in the Government's fishing vessel safety review published earlier this year.

The owner of the 31-year-old vessel, Mr Joe Whelan of New Ross, Co Wexford, said it was a "disgrace" that an Irish helicopter was unable to carry out the rescue.

The Minister, Mr Barrett, has ordered a Department marine surveyor to interview the crew at the earliest opportunity with a view to "establishing the facts" of the incident.

The sinking occurred about 42 miles south-south-west of Tuskar Rock shortly after midday yesterday. The 56-foot Chants d'Esperance, which fishes out of Duncannon, Co Wexford, and has been landing into Dunmore East, Co Waterford, was working 25 miles south-west of the Smalls, about halfway between Ireland and Britain.

Sea conditions were moderate, although visibility was poor.

According to Mr Whelan, whose son, Malcolm (20), was skipper of the boat, a freak wave swamped the craft and there were difficulties with the pumps.

Three of the crew, including the skipper's younger brother, William (19), took to the life raft, while the skipper sent out a distress signal on VHF radio.

The signal was picked up by Rosslare VHF radio which has recently been relocated by the Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES). The information was passed to the British authorities and the rescue was co-ordinated by Milford Haven Coastguard.

The trawler sank within minutes, but the life raft was spotted by another Irish vessel and the four crew members were winched up by an RAF helicopter crew from Chivenor, Devon.

Three lifeboats from Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, Dunmore East, Co Waterford, and Angle in Cornwall had been called to thee scene.

Additional assistance was offered by a US navy vessel, an Air Corps CASA fishery patrol plane three merchant ships and two Irish vessels in the area.

Milford Haven Coastguard said that the rescue was effected within two hours of the first report that the vessel was taking water. The four were taken to hospital in Haverfordwest and were said to be "cold and wet" but fine.

Mr Whelan said that the vessel was well maintained and had not given any trouble before.

Mr Tom Hassett, secretary of the Irish Fishermen's Federation which represents the three main fishing industry organisations, said that the Minister must act now on the fishing vessel safety review report.