The trawler "Blue Crusader" left Aberdeen on 13th January with a crew of 13. She was in radio contact with another trawler at 7.30 p.m. that evening near the Orkneys, but there has been no radio contact since. There was a Force 10 gale that night. As soon as it was reported that the trawler was overdue, all shipping was alerted and an extensive air search lasting three days was instituted over the whole Orkney and Shetland area.
Shipping and aircraft in the area, as well as H.M. Coastguard, are continuing to keep a look-out, but so far without result. I am afraid that there can now be little hope for the ship or her crew.
I am sure that the House will wish to join me in expressing our deepest sympathy with the relatives of those who were on board.
I thank the Minister for his statement, and I join with him in expressing very deep regret and sympathy with the relatives of the very fine skipper and crew.
Does his statement mean that the ship is now officially lost, and, if so, will he institute an inquiry to see whether any of the facts can be ascertained?
Secondly, he will be aware that fishing vessels often do not keep in regular contact with their shore base, and that there was in this case a gap, apparently, between 13th January and the day when the "Blue Crusader" was due in port, 26th January, before a search was started. Will the hon. Gentleman consider making a recommendation that all ships should, after severe storms, contact their shore base?
There will certainly be an inquiry, more likely in private, and by the Wreck Commissioners.
One obvious piece of evidence which has come out of this whole incident is that on the day when the gale took place and for 13 days thereafter neither the owners nor anyone else seemed to worry about the whereabouts of the ship. No radio contact was made, and no inquiry was sought of the ship. What has alarmed me in my reading of all the details of the matter is that trawlers are going to sea and are not regularly making radio contact. Obviously, there is a piece of evidence here which needs examining, and I intend to do so.
Can my hon. Friend say why radio contact failed? Will he investigate the scientific aspects of the matter, because there is a feeling that much of this kind of danger could be met in a properly scientific way?
May I, at the same time, express my sympathy with the relatives of the skipper and crew, adding the earnest hope that such disasters may be averted in the future?