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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK


UK: Scotland

Inquiry concludes: 'Mistakes on both sides'

The loss of the Silvery Sea's crew devastated a small community

A maritime inquiry into a mid-sea collision which claimed the lives of five Scottish fishermen has concluded that mistakes were made on both sides.

The five-strong German panel sat on Thursday in Hamburg to investigate the causes of the fatal accident involving Mallaig-based fishing vessel the Silvery Sea and German coaster Merkur.

Its members were careful not to attach any direct blame to Scottish skipper Alexander Manson or any of his four crewman.


BBC Scotland's Eric Crockhart reports on the inquiry's conclusions
However, they did conclude that the Silvery Sea should have changed course when it was apparent danger was immenent.

But the most severe criticism was levelled at the first officer of the Merkur, Gerd Gayde, for leaving the bridge of the 4,000 ton coaster without getting a replacement.

Shortly aftre he left his posting the collision occurred 30 miles off the Danish coast.


The Hamburg inquiry apportioned little blame to the crew of the Silvery Sea
Mr Gayde was also crticised for not making proper use of images on the radar screen which should have warned him that the vessels were rapidly closing together.

The tragedy happened last June on a clear sunny morning with visibility of more than 20 miles.

The Scottish trawler was heading to the Danish port Esbjerg with a full catch of sand eels on board.


[ image: The collision left the Merkur with a gaping hole]
The collision left the Merkur with a gaping hole
Representatives of the families of Silvery Sea - skipper Alex Manson, of Mallaig, Alex Mackenzie, 32, also Mallaig; Michael Dyer, 36, and Alan MacDonald, 31, both from Morar, Western Inverness-shire, and 42-year-old Billy Tait, from Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, were present at the inquiry.

A statement from the lawyer representing the owners and insurers of the Silvery Sea said doubts still remained after the inquiry.

Solicitor Keith MacRae said: "Having heard from the only eye-witnesses who could have shed any light on the accident, doubts still remain."

He added: "The reasons for the 'Silvery Sea' not changing course must remain speculative due, to the tragic death of all on board."

"Tragically, it will never be possible to establish what happened."

Lost time

Hans Salander, solicitor for Merkur, said: "It may be that first officer Gayde waited too long to change course as he was expecting the Silvery Sea, which was travelling at about ten knots, to give way.

"But when he changed course it was too late and the collision resulted."

The detailed written results of the inquest by the German Maritime Casualties Investigations Board will not be published for several months.

The bodies of the five who died were found and taken back home for burial.

No-one on the German ship was badly injured.

Britain's Marine Accidents Investigations Branch, part of the Government's Department of Transport, is also probing the loss, and was represented at the day-long inquest by a team led by inspector Simon Harwood.



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