HMS Mersey Prevents Tragedy in English Channel


A tragedy has been avoided in the English Channel, thanks to the actions of a Royal Navy warship and her crew.

The Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Mersey was on a routine fishery patrol in the English Channel, approximately 40 miles south west of Dover in the middle of the Traffic Separation Zone (the shipping equivalent of a motorway’s central reservation), when her bridge team overheard a distress call to Dover Coast Guard from the fishing vessel Chirsty Ann, whose Skipper had suddenly become gravely ill.

Being only twelve miles away, Mersey contacted the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Dover Coastguard and offered assistance.

The ship detached from the fishing vessel that her team were about to inspect and made best speed to the Chirsty Ann’s position, mobilising her medical team into one of her rigid inflatable boats.

Once onboard the Mersey’s first aiders, Petty Officer Rick Bonell and Leading Chef Felicity Liggins, quickly assessed the patient and stabilised his condition.

Just under twenty minutes later the Coastguard helicopter arrived and winched down her paramedic.

Once safe to move the skipper was winched onboard the helicopter and airlifted to Eastbourne Hospital for further treatment.

The winchman paramedic later passed on his thanks to Mersey and in particular her medical team for their prompt actions which prevented the patient’s condition from deteriorating further.

The Chirsty Ann only had five people onboard, the skipper and four passengers; so the Mersey supplied a member of her crew, Lieutenant Paul Kilbride, to help drive the fishing vessel back to her home port of Rye.

Mersey took station and escorted the Chirsty Ann across the busy shipping lane, one of the world’s busiest, right up to the entrance of Rye harbour, where as arranged the RNLI inshore lifeboat took over and helped the passengers bring the fishing vessel safely alongside.

Once relieved by the RNLI, Mersey returned to her fishery protection duties. Mersey’s Executive Officer, Lt Rob Lamb, who is in temporary command said:

“It is the responsibility of all mariners to help save life at sea and the sailors of HMS Mersey are no exception.

“I am proud of my team and particularly how they pulled out all the stops to ensure Mersey was able to play her part”.

HMS Mersey is one of three Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV’s) which undertake fishery protection patrols around the coasts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation a agency of the Government Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Source: royal-navy, June 9, 2011;