Fishing Trawler Captain Testifies Against Hearing Warning Whistle From Bulk Carrier Before Collision

The captain of a fishing trawler told the High Court that he could not hear a big merchant vessel sounding the warning whistle before the boats collided off the coast of Kerry. Joaquin Maria Antelo Madale, captain of the Kirrixhi trawler, mentioned that he did not receive radio communications from the bulk carrier, Hua Shen Hai.

The giant vessel sailed with a 44,000-ton cargo comprising bauxite to Limerick’s Aughinish Alumina when the deadly collision occurred around midnight on 11 October 2019, at approximately 24 nm to the northwest Inishtearagh Lighthouse on the Blasket Islands.

The owners of these vessels have reportedly sued each other for the impairments, alleging negligence against one another.

Fishing Trawler
Image for representation purposes only

Hua Sheng Hai Ltd, which chartered the Hong Kong-registered carrier from a Chinese Cosco group’s subsidiary, says that the trawler’s skipper was not on the watch and did not know where he was headed in what it alleges happened to be the worst watch-keeping standard.

MV Rochelaise de Peche SA, the owners of Kirirxhi, has said that the bulk carrier that had failed to maintain a lookout where saw a trawler and was unable to assess its position. The carriers could not maintain “give way” rules for fishing boats, monitor the trawler’s movements and not pay attention to the size of Kirrixhi, it is claimed.

On the third day, Captn Madale (aged 59), who had commanded the Kirrixhi until it was impaired in a fire after the collision while under repair in Spain, shared evidence via a video link and a Spanish interpreter. 

He mentioned that Glen Gibbons SC, the Kirrixhi owners’; counsel, that there had been an unforeseen engine issue, which was repaired before the operation involving putting nets into the sea began. 

He explained how he was overseeing a deadly operation involving letting out 650 meters of cable which, if it went wrong, could also result in crew members’ injury or damages to gear.

The vessel had its “not under command”; lights switched on as it was being repaired and drifting.

He said that fishing lights were also on as it began letting the nets out. The China-based vessel was obliged, per the rules of the sea, to give way to boat fishing.

Cross-checked by David Conlan Smyth SC, for Hua Sheng Hai’s owners, about who had been on the lookout for the trawler for the night. He said they did not have a guard as all ten crew members were required in the fishing operation.

Counsel told him he was engaged in a dangerous activity and was looking backwards but not forward. Captain Madale mentioned that there were zero boats in front of the vessel while they were setting the gear, so they focused their attention on that.

Counsel said that had he chosen to look, he would have been able to see the Hua Sheng Hai. He replied that he could not tell if he would have seen it as he was setting the gear and added that had he caught it, he would have tried some manoeuvring.

He said he had seen the merchant vessel about seven miles away previously and would’ve expected it to have

seen them too as they began fishing. The case continues.

References: Irish Examiner, Breaking

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