We have had detailed clarification of the incident – on the evening of Thursday 21st March – where a fishing boat ran aground on rocks near the of the old Navy Buildings at Greenock – from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s [MCA] Press Officer, Fred Caygill.
The reality is very different from the reports we had received and carries many additional points of interest.
The 999 call from the member of the public – the local lady concerned who had informed Iain Mackenzie MP of the incident – came in at 19.24. The lady reported that ‘a fishing boat had hit her patio’.
The Coastguard station attempted to reach the fishing boat concerned on VHF radio – with no response, so they kept the lady caller on the line as their immediate link to the incident while they tasked the relevant rescue services. This is normal practice.
Within 5 minutes of that 999 call being received – and while the lady was still on the line, Belfast Coastguard had tasked the Greenock Coastguard Rescue team.
Within 10 minutes they had tasked the Helensburgh Inshore Lifeboat to the scene.
Both were informed that there were two crew onboard the grounded boat.
Within 15 minutes the lady caller reported that a second fishing boat was coming in towards the grounded one.
Within 20 minutes the coastguard were informed that the second fishing boat had got a line aboard the casualty.
At 19.45, the grounded boat was pulled clear by its partner fishing boat.
Helensburgh Inshore Lifeboat – a RIB [Rigid Inflatable Boat] – got to the scene at this stage. It may be that a RIB – which is visually low profile - was not recognised as a lifeboat by the lady in question.
The lifeboat was instructed to escort the tow to the James Watt Dock at Greenock; and the Coastguard Rescue team were re-routed to that location to meet the fishing boats and check their situation.
Throughout the incident and for whatever reason, neither fishing boat responded to Coastguard communications to them on VHF Channel 16, the emergency channel.
There is a serious safety issue here with onboard VHF absent, unserviceable, turned off or ignored.