Navy lose Yellow Submarine

Fishermen hold sub for ransom

Sam Jones
Monday June 13, 2005
The Guardian

The Royal Navy has been left red-faced after a missing yellow submarine worth £750,000 was found by Scottish lobster fishermen who are now holding the vessel for ransom.

When John Baker first glimpsed the 10ft-long object floating two miles off the Mull of Oa on Islay, he mistook it for an old oil drum.

On closer inspection, however, the yellow tube turned out to be a state-of-the-art, remote-controlled mini-submarine used by the navy to hunt for mines in perilous waters.

Realising that someone must be missing the submersible, Mr Baker towed it back to Port Ellen on Islay and winched it ashore. Once back on dry land, he helpfully phoned the Royal Navy to tell it he had found its sub.
However, he said the Ministry of Defence was initially far from grateful. He told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper that the MoD first denied ownership of the sub, then finally admitted it had been missing for weeks only after he informed it that the letters MoD stamped on the side had convinced him that it must belong to the ministry.

"We were just looking for our creels when we saw it," Mr Baker said.

His brother-in-law, Harold Hastie, was drafted in to assist in the rescue operation after Mr Baker realised he would need specialist winching gear to get the sub out of the water.

Mr Hastie now believes the rescuers should be rewarded for their efforts in safeguarding the expensive piece of military hardware.

"We have the submarine in a secure location on Islay, but we think it is only appropriate, after spending money to recover it and lift it out of the water, that we receive some sort of financial recognition."

But the navy remains unconvinced and says it is annoyed that the missing sub has not already been returned.

A Royal Navy spokesman said last night that the minisub, which weighs 850kg, had become detached from HMS Penzance, a mine counter-measures ship, at the beginning of May. He said the ship had been near Islay when the sub was lost and that it had been reported missing immediately.

The spokesman added that such incidents were not uncommon, but said he had no idea why the MoD would have denied the sub was the navy's.

Asked about the fishermen's claim for compensation, he said: "Standard operating procedures require us to conduct an investigation into how the submarine was lost. This investigation will take several weeks ... It would be a complete breach of standard operating procedures to give the fishermen a fee or to issue a salvage note before the investigation is complete. The fishermen say they will give us back the sub when we give them the money, but we're not going to play that game."
I can just imagine some sniffy faceless grey-suited Man from the Ministry getting all huffy with this - classic! :D
"State of the art"? nothing in the Navy is "State of the art".
Is it not an act of treason to hold the government to ransom re equipment?

Surely they should just take it back and then give the guys a few bottles of 12yr old for their efforts.
Isn't there some odd rules for salvage at sea, i.e. if someone salvages something that has been abandoned then it is theirs to dispose of as they see fit. Not sure about this but remeber reading it somewhere.
Unforunatly, the navy is more state of the art than our good selves, but at least we realise when we lose kit (normally followed by a swift kick from the QM and the bill). Wonder who would have paid for it if it hadn't been found?

jon1467 said:
Isn't there some odd rules for salvage at sea, i.e. it someone salvages something that has been abandoned then it is theirs to dispose of as they see fit.
The legal concept that a marine salvor is entitled to a reward for the saving of imperiled marine property has been a recognized part of Admiralty law for more than 3,000 years. The origins of the concept may be traced from antiquity, as set forth in the Edicts of Rhodes, through the laws of the Romans, as set forth in the Justinian Digest, to the Medieval Laws of Oleron, the Code of the Hanseatic League and so forth. The original concept, as it has come down from Roman law, is that an individual who risks himself and his property voluntarily to successfully rescue the property of another from peril at sea and restore it to him has bestowed a benefit on the owner and should be rewarded by the owner commensurate with the magnitude of the benefit bestowed. The concept has a sound policy basis, descending as it does from an era when the distinction between pirates and freebooters on the one hand and honest seaman and salvors on the other was often only one of motivation and expectation. While both were on the lookout for a generous reward for their efforts, at least the latter hoped to come by it honestly. The purpose was to encourage honesty by generously rewarding those who restored property safely to the owner. Of course, many modern marine insurance adjusters would argue that the distinction between freebooter and salvor continues to be a vague one. There is still, however, a sound policy basis for the concept today. The interest of maritime safety and commerce as well as the marine environment are better served by encouraging salvors to prevent losses of vessels and cargo.
Thanks for alleviating my ignorance; would this not give these chaps a sound legal basis on which to demand some kind of recompense for their efforts from the RN?
Indeed it would, but the Navy has a traditionally bad relationship with fishermen, and I can guarantee they will be spitting tacks at the thought of paying them for the thing.
bernoulli said:
"State of the art"? nothing in the Navy is "State of the art".
You should see the new Senior Rates Mess in Drake mate.
Since the Navy ' abandoned' it and made no attempt to recover the mini-sub - or so it seems - the right of salvage seems correct - I suggest that if the military /MoD is unwilling to recompense the fishermen for their expenses in retrieval.. that said fellowsavail themselves of that 21st century contrivance E-BAY and put it up for the highest bidder.. they may well be a third world government in need ofsecond hand equipment of some ' militaria collector ' looking for a new lawn ornament ..[ how big is it? could it fit in a backyard pool? make a good bar counter? how 'bout adding wheels and driving it? ]
How unpatriotic can you get?! :x

The fisherman should have given it back without asking for anything in return, and certainly shouldn't have told the media about it. It makes me angry that someone should try to make money out of finding a piece of equipment belonging to Her Majesty's Armed Forces.

What happened to the concept of doing a good deed, for no personal gain, and supporting your country's defenders?


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