By BRIAN MOORE
THE reputations of the fishing community in Castletownbere, and of the town itself, have been damaged, at home and abroad, by reports that an injured fisherman was ‘dumped’ at sea, according to John Dolan, CEO at the Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op.
Mr Dolan spoke to The Southern Star, following the report that an injured crew member, who had joined a fishing vessel in Castletownbere, was placed into a survival suit and ‘was left in the water and had to be picked up by another boat.’
‘Firstly, and most importantly, this vessel was not a Castletownbere boat,’ Niall Duffy, Castletownbere resident, and editor of The Irish Skipper said.
‘The vessel is a UK-registered boat,’ he said. ‘There are two sides to every story, but the notion that a crewman was “dumped” over the side to fend for himself until another boat picked him up is beyond ridiculous.’
It is alleged that the crewman was injured five days into the fishing trip, and that the captain refused to return to port or to arrange a medevac. The crewman told the International Transport Workers Federation that the captain said he would be put into the water and would be picked up by another fishing vessel, which was returning to Castletownbere. He claimed he had hurt his back after a fall on the boat and that when he reached shore, he had to get a bus to hospital in Cork, where he was x-rayed and given crutches.
‘There is nothing illegal in the way the crewman was transferred between vessels,’ Niall Duffy said. ‘Indeed, this method has been used many times if a crew member has to get ashore urgently for a bereavement or other family emergency. The boats come close together, about 15ft to 20ft apart, and the crewman will swim between the two boats and is picked up. This was a textbook transfer. I have been told that the crewman was attached to the other vessel by a line and that he swam to the boat that was returning to Castletownbere. But if this crew member was injured as he said he was, then I don’t know how he got to the other vessel, if he could not swim.’
Once back in Castletownbere the crewman reported what happened to the gardaí. Gardaí have told The Southern Star that an investigation is underway and the matter has been reported to the Marine Survey Office.
However, Castletownbere locals believe the allegations have created negative repercussions for the fishing industry and the local community.
‘We have had a number of companies that we deal with contacting us to express their alarm at what they thought were the actions of a Castletownbere Co-op boat and its crew,’ Mr Dolan said. ‘I am angry and very annoyed at this report and have had to call a number of our foreign customers to reassure them that the fishing community in Castletownbere is fully compliant with marine safety, employment laws and all regulations that apply to ensuring the safety of the vessels and crew members of our community.’
At time of going to press, there was no response from the International Transport Workers’ Federation.