Bugaled Breizh

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Coordinates: 49°57′07″N 5°12′50″W / 49.952°N 5.214°W / 49.952; -5.214

Bugaled Breizh.JPG
The raised Bugaled Breizh
Name: Bugaled Breizh
Owner: Micheal Douce
Builder: Bretagne Sud
Completed: 1986
Out of service: January 15, 2004
Identification: 8428[1]
Fate: capsized, January 15, 2004
Status: raised June 2004, examined and stored
General characteristics
Class and type: motorized fishing vessel (trawler)
Tonnage: 103
Length: 24 m (79 ft)
Crew: 5

The MFV Bugaled Breizh is a French trawler from Loctudy, Finistère, whose sinking with all hands on January 15, 2004 remains unresolved. While it appears likely that the ship was pulled under by a submarine, a specific submarine could not be identified as a number of submarines of several nations were in the vicinity of the accident site.

The accident[edit]

The motorized fishing vessel (MFV) was built in 1986 by the Bretagne Sud shipyard in Belz.[1] The Bugaled Breizh (Children of Brittany) capsized with five sailors about 14 nautical miles (26 km) southwest of Lizard Point, Cornwall on January 15, 2004 at 12h25 UTC. The ship briefly radioed that it was sinking, and disappeared apparently very quickly in good weather conditions; only two bodies of the five sailors were recovered at the time, while a third body was recovered on July 10, 2004 during salvage operations.[2]


Immediately investigations were started by the French authorities in Quimper. Several explanations were advanced to explain the capsizing including a fishing accident, collision with a surface ship, rock or wreck, the presence of a sandbank, and an accident involving a submarine.[3] In June 2004 the ship was raised for forensic examinations. The fish hold showed a compression due to the water pressure. In the absence of evidence of any ramming, the hypothesis of a collision with a surface ship could be abandoned.

Submarine involvement "likely"[edit]

Several hours after the sinking an announcement was made by the French Maritime Prefect for the Atlantic that a NATO naval exercise involving submarines was taking place in the area. The Dutch submarine Dolfijn was one of the first ships to reach the site of the sinking and was suspected to be involved in the accident.[3] The British submarine Turbulent was also suspect as it was sent for repair after the exercises. However, according to authorities the Dolfijn was at least 15 kilometres (8.1 nmi) away and the Royal Navy indicated as well that its submarines were not at the site where the Bugaled Breizh sank.[3] Other reports mention that the German submarine U-22, the British nuclear attack submarine Torbay, and two French nuclear attack submarines, Rubis and Saphir, were also present in the vicinity.[4] Another submarine noted in the areas was Triumph.[5] Further, there was apparently a submarine of unknown origin that was observing the NATO maneuvers.[6]

The hypothesis that the Bugaled Breizh was sunk by an accident with a submarine can explain a number of unusual observations. The ship apparently sank very rapidly, there was no launching of any rescue boat, and the help signal was brief, without giving the coordinates.[7] The trawler line of the ship was drawn out on the port side in contrast to the starboard one. The long cable is also reported to have traces of titanium; it has been proposed that this originates from the surface of a submarine.[8]

NATO documents have been declassified and were released to the French judiciary. The Minister of Defense Michèle Alliot-Marie indicated to the National Assembly[9] that the information she had did not allow her to suspect a submarine as the cause of the accident. She indicated that the British and French authorities had cooperated and provided a list of all their ships and submarines in the area of interest. Also, the titanium issue was considered trivial as titanium dioxide is a common pigment of marine paint including the one used for the Bugaled Breizh. The report of the French Marine Accident Investigation Office (Bureau d'enquêtes sur les événements de mer or BEAmer) was published on November 27, 2006 and examined a number of possible causes; it rejected the proposition that fishing lines got entangled with a military submarine and concluded that "the hypothesis that the fishing line got buried in a sandbank is more consistent with the evidence."[10] However, the hypothesis of a fishing accident was received with skepticism by the fishing community. It believed that the governmental BEA — it is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport — tried to avoid a diplomatic incident with the military and its allies.[11] An analysis of the French Institute of Research for the Exploration of the Ocean subsequently rejected the proposition of BEAmer as impossible.[12] Expert testimony indicated that a nuclear submarine that got entangled in the net of a trawler could pull down a vessel of about 250 tons within 80 seconds.[13] A recent newspaper article states that an unnamed witness thought that British submarine HMS Turbulent may have been involved in the ship's wreck[14] However Judge Brigette Lamy said she agreed with reports that the submarine was in Plymouth at the time.[15]


On July 31, 2008, the judges Richard Foltzer and Muriel Corre, who had been charged with the inquiry into the sinking of the Bugaled Breizh, after having received expert testimony, issued a statement that it was likely that the vessel sank as a result of an accident with a nuclear attack submarine.[16] It appears likely that a submarine got caught in the net of the trawler and then pulled it down.[17] The judges indicated that all other possibilities were highly improbable, and official reports by the military authorities had been contradictory.[16] However, they were unable to indicate which submarine was involved and indicated also the possibility that the accident may have been caused by the unidentified spy submarine.[18] As such the relatives of the dead sailors and the owner of the ship have not received any compensations.

The accident suggests that submarines operating in fishing zones represent a danger to fishing trawlers who when "catching" a submarine may be at significant risk of being pulled under. The Celtic League indicates that accidents with submarines may have accounted for the loss of more than 20 motorized fishing vessels since 1970 with the loss of over 150 sailors and demands better communication between the military and the civilian authorities.[16]



  • Laurent Richard and Sébastien Turay, Le Bugaled Breizh, les secrets d'états autour d'un naufrage First, Janvier 2007, ISBN 2-7540-0297-9


  • Serge Marie L'énigme du Bugaled Breizh, 2005


  1. ^ a b "Bugaled Breizh (8429)". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 2009-08-09.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Third body recovered from trawler". BBC News. 2004-07-11. 
  3. ^ a b c "Dolfijn and the Bugaled Breizh". Dutch Submarines. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Bugaled Breizh: erreurs et omissions pour "Pièces à conviction"". Le portail des sous-marins (in French). Corlobe. 
  5. ^ Irish Sea Shipping (2008-04-20). "Bugaled Breizh". Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Un sous-marin espion accusé d'avoir coulé le Bugaled Breizh". Le portail des sous-marins (in French). Corlobe. 
  7. ^ Jonathan Morris (07-12-2004). "Answers sought on trawler tragedy". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-02-20.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ "Bugeled Breizh Enquiry". Irish Sea Shipping. 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2009-02-24. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Questions for the Government" (in French). Assemblée nationale. 
  10. ^ "Official report" (in French). BEAmer. 
  11. ^ "Bugaled Breizh : La Bataille des magistrats" (in French). Le Télégramme. 
  12. ^ "Rejection of thesis of fishing accident" (in French). France Info. 
  13. ^ western morning news (08-02-2008). "Fatal trawler probe can't trace 'culprit'". Retrieved 2009-02-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ (French) A British sub may be involved
  15. ^ "Submarine HMS Turbulent 'in port during Bugaled Breizh trawler sinking'". BBC News. 2013-01-28. 
  16. ^ a b c Celtic League (04-05-2008). "'Bugaled Breizh' sinking — submarine involvement 'likely'". Agence Bretagne Presse. Retrieved 2009-02-23.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ "French trawler Bugaled Breizh 'was sunk by sub'". BBC. 2005-03-24. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  18. ^ Adam Sage (2007-06-28). "Spy submarine is blamed for sinking trawler in war games". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-02-23. 

The article is in part based on the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia from February 23, 2009

External links[edit]