Leaders at the recent Ostend summit were widely reported to have discussed in detail the ongoing risks that Russia poses to European energy supplies.

This is not only through tightening of oil and gas supplies to Europe, but in terms of a direct threat to European offshore wind production and subsea power cables.

This follows the recent apparent sabotage of a cables in Norwegian waters, cutting off communications with the island of Svalbard, which is host to a major intelligence and security hub, and the blowing up of the Nordstream pipeline in the Baltic last year. Norway expelled 15 Russian diplomats after the Svalbard incident, accusing them of spying.

Skipper John Clark took this picture of the unknown vessel, thought to be a Russian spy ship, off the Scottish coast earlier this month. The vessel is thought to have visited wind farm sites down the UK coast of the southern North Sea. (Photo: John Clark)

A documentary broadcast earlier this month by several Nordic countries alleges that Russia is using spy ships disguised as fishing vessels, with the aim giving it the capability to attack wind farms and communications cables in the North Sea.

It named one vessel, the Admiral Vladimirsky, which it showed had travelled down the North Sea in late 2022, apparently documenting wind farms in UK waters. A Dutch official quoted in the film provided details of surveillance by the vessel on both Dutch and UK wind farms.

The documentary makers filmed armed guards aboard the vessel, masked in balaclavas, when they approached the vessel. Earlier in April, John Clark, skipper of the Reliance III BF 800, saw a similar vessel behaving strangely when he was working grounds off North East Scotland. He took a picture of the vessel at the time and shared it on Twitter, saying that the vessel had its AIS switched off, had no name showing, and was not responding to contacts on Channel 16.

“I thought it very strange,” he said. “No markings, no AIS, inside UK waters. It was on a funny route, and was heading north, then NE. then NNE.

“We were heaving up at the time, and he passed us at just seven knots – no reply to me calling them on VHF 16, The ship passed at a mile from us, and nobody to be seen.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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