I was on a vessel on passage Eastbound through the Channel. Our vessel was not restricted by draft. The sequence of events described below occurred during the early evening in clear visibility but during the hours of darkness.
After reporting to Cap Gris Nez at Basurelle, course was set for the next leg to ZC 1 buoy. Radar plot using ARPA was continued and a number of small targets were noticed on the port bow. One of the targets was noted to be proceeding at a speed of 10 knots on the reciprocal course to the direction of the TSS. Initial visual identification by the lookout was for a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre; this was confirmed by interrogation of AIS equipment. CPA from ARPA was showing a small 3 cable clearance on the port side.
Own vessel was being overtaken on the starboard side by two vessels. I contacted the closer of the two (a container vessel) and informed him that I intended to alter to starboard to increase my CPA with the vessel proceeding towards me. The 00W on the container ship was aware of the situation and agreed with my action. During the period we were closing it occurred to me that normally for vessels restricted in ability to manoeuvre, Gris Nez would include the details in the hourly broadcast. At around two miles distance I observed the lights of the vessel to be the lights for a vessel engaged in trawling (rule 26) but additionally showing two all round red lights.
These red lights could be for either:
- A vessel not under command or
- A fishing vessel, fishing in close proximity to others, when the net has come fast upon an obstruction. (ColRegs Annex II).
Since the vessel had been noted earlier doing 10 knots neither of these seemed likely. The vessel passed close down our port side, then altering course and reducing speed to pass very close under our stern.
After the fishing vessel had cleared I called Cap Gris Nez on Channel 13 to report the incident. They contacted the fishing vessel and a discussion was held in French, which unfortunately I do not speak. Shortly afterwards a photograph was taken of our AIS (a copy of which was provided to CHIRP).
We liaised with the Channel Navigation Information Service Manager at Dover. He advised that in recent months, a number of fishing vessels have been engaged in “fly-shooting” in the Channel. This involves throwing a buoyed rope over the side, proceeding at full speed for a considerable distance, launching the net whilst making radical turns so as to return to the rope end. The fish are thereby corralled. In a Traffic Separation Scheme, such manoeuvres could cause confusion to other vessels and should not be carried out.
The reported incident is being followed up by the Authorities in France.
Contraventions of the Traffic Separation Scheme should be reported immediately to the UK or French Authorities, as the reporter did in this case.
We note that the skipper of a leisure cruiser was recently fined £20,000 by magistrates in the UK for proceeding for 26 miles against the flow of traffic in the South West Lane of the Dover Straits TSS.