A skipper who claims a Russian submarine may have snagged itself on his trawler as it fished off the Outer Hebrides says a second suspected incident in the Irish Sea raises fresh concerns.
In the most recent case, the skipper of an Irish boat said he was towed by a submarine 18 miles off the coast of Ardglass, County Down, on Wednesday afternoon.
Paul Murphy said the crew of his trawler, Karen, were lucky to escape unharmed after a submarine snagged their nets at a point known as the Calf of Man, not far from the Isle of Man, dragging them backwards at speed.
Europe’s biggest war games – Exercise Joint Warrior – are currently taking place off the west coast of Scotland, involving more than 50 ships, including submarines.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it did not comment on submarine activity.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is still conducting inquiries into a previous complaint from Angus Macleod, who claims a submarine dragged the net of his 62ft boat, Aquarius, as he was fishing off Lewis last month.
Yesterday Mr Macleod, 46 from Barra said: “This incident in the Irish Sea is very worrying. Fishermen need to feel safe to fish from submarines.
“I don’t know which submarine we encountered – Allied or otherwise – just that we did. It is the only possible explanation and we were lucky, just like this trawler in the Irish Sea. There needs to be an open and transparent investigation.
“Since we reported our incident other fishermen have contacted me to say have also had similar encounters over the years.”
Mr Macleod said his boat suffered about £10,000 of damage and had to be towed back to port by the Stornoway lifeboat.
The Royal Navy has said there were no British or Nato submarines in the area at the time.
A spokesman for the MAIB said it was still gathering information before deciding to formally open a full investigation.
“We are aware of the incident. A decision about whether or not to investigate will be taken in due course,” he said.
Four fishermen died in the Firth of Clyde in 1990 when the Scottish trawler Antares was dragged under by the nuclear-powered HMS Trenchant submarine.
In November, the UK called on the help of aircraft from Nato allies after a reported sighting of a submarine periscope off the west of Scotland. The search continued for several weeks, with planes from the US, France and Canada flying out of RAF Lossiemouth.