Southwold/Lowestoft: Fishermen lucky to be alive after boat smash

CONCERNS over ship-to-ship oil transfers off the Suffolk coast have increased after two fishermen had a lucky escape when their boat was in collision with a tanker.

Meanwhile, the Government has offered to put the controversial issue to public consultation.

Within the last year the sea between Lowestoft and Southwold has been earmarked as the only place in the country where ship-to-ship oil transfers can take place – provoking much debate in local communities.

On Tuesday morning Richard Morgan and Brian Wright had a lucky escape while fishing for cod and skate when they said a Singapore-owned vessel crashed into their bow and started to pull them down.

Fortunately the anchor cable snapped and released them just seconds before tragedy could strike.

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Fears have been raised about the potential for disaster in the event of a spillage and the impact on the area’s tourism image.

Last night John Stewart, chairman of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said the latest drama would only heighten people’s anxiety.

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“I think it would be fair to say that concerns are growing daily,” he said. “When one hears about an incident such as the one involving the fishing boat that can only increase.”

The society has organised a meeting about the issue for March 12 at 5pm, although a venue has not yet been agreed.

It will be attended by local MP Therese Coffey, who said yesterday that she had recently met with Minister for Shipping, Mike Penning.

She said the new statutory instrument – the principal way in which delegated or secondary legislation is made – was due to be published soon on the issue.

She said she was pleased to report that because of the level of interest it would be going to public consultation.

“I have been pressing the minister on this and while it is unusual for a minister to open up consultation on a statutory instrument he has recognised the strength of public feeling on this,” said Dr Coffey.

“This is a fresh opportunity for people who felt they were not heard last summer to put forward their views on the matter.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have said they will launch an investigation into Tuesday morning’s incident, which happened about 11 miles off Lowestoft.

Mr Morgan, 32, was aboard his boat, Chloe Paige, fishing with his crewman, Mr Wright.

Their 34ft fishing boat was hit, damaging the front rail and dragging the anchor and boat down with it. Mr Wright, 71, was outside the wheelhouse when it happened and described the other vessel, the 797ft Zaliv Vostok, as looking like a “solid wall of steel”.

He said: “I thought we were going to lose the boat. If the anchor had not parted we wouldn’t be here.”

The boat was able to get back to the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Yacht Club, in Lowestoft and Mr Morgan added: “The sea off Lowestoft is like the M25 – there is a big accident waiting to happen.”

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