Angus MacNeil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has written urgently to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) seeking an immediate review of the current system of notification to the fishing industry of Naval exercises which require the Global Positioning System (GPS) to be disrupted.
Mr MacNeil was contacted by the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association (WIFA) who informed him of incidents in recent days when vessels in the Minch had received a less than 30 minute warning that GPS would be jammed leading to extreme disruption and potential danger.
NATO exercises Joint Warrior 21-2 and Dynamic Mariner 21 have been taking place on the west coast this week.
In a letter to the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP, Angus MacNeil said:
“I would urge you to review the current practice of advance notification to the fishing industry prior to the commencement of exercises when GPS or any other systems need to be disrupted.
“A less than 30 minute warning that GPS will be jammed is extremely disruptive and dangerous to the fishing industry and other marine users.
“It is vital that they are fully aware of times of jamming, at least 48 hours before, to enable the fishing industry to plan future commercial fishing operations safely to avoid seabed obstructions which could result in injury to crew or damage to the vessel if the vessel gets caught in any obstruction.
“I am asking for urgent clarification of future intentions for blocking GPS or any other systems for the duration of this joint exercise.”
Duncan Macinnes, Secretary of WIFA said: “It’s totally unacceptable for the fishing industry being issued with a navigation warning that their GPS is being jammed within the next 30 minutes.
“This short notice presents a significant risk to vessels relying on GPS for avoiding underwater obstructions whilst they are towing and could result in vessels becoming entangled in obstructions that could result in injuries to crew or damage to vessels if their gear becomes entangled in obstructions.
“We welcome the prompt response of Angus MacNeil, MP, in raising this matter with the MOD so that proper procedures for notification of jamming GPS are issued well in advance of any future MOD exercises.”