Shocked by MP's insinuations over sinking: Spanish captain
The captain of a Spanish fishing trawler that sank Sunday on the Grand Banks says he is disturbed that a Nova Scotia MP is suggesting he deliberately scuttled his own boat.
The Monte Galineiro sank in international waters just as a Canadian Coast Guard vessel saved all 22 members of the trawler's crew.
New Democratic MP Peter Stoffer said this week he wants an investigation into why the Monte Galineiro sank so quickly, and whether the ship — which had been fishing for turbot about 400 kilometres east of St. John's — may have been sabotaged in advance of a federal inspection.
In St. John's, Monte Galineiro captain Ivan Blanco reacted with disbelief to Stoffer's statements.
"Capt. Blanco has fished those waters for seven years," a translator said Tuesday as Blanco answered questions from reporters. "He says coast guard inspections are nothing new and nothing to fear."
Blanco said he was well aware that the coast guard vessel Leonard J. Cowley was in the area on Sunday. The Cowley had been preparing to carry out a routine inspection but had not yet issued a hail to the Monte Galineiro to prepare for boarding.
The Cowley was able to arrive on the scene 10 minutes after receiving a distress call from the Monte Galineiro. The coast guard's crew saw some of the mariners jumping directly into the Atlantic Ocean. At least one fisherman was wearing only underwear during the emergency evacuation.
Blanco said he could not believe Stoffer is suggesting he would do this deliberately and put the lives of his crew at risk, all to avoid a routine inspection.
Crewmembers said they heard loud banging noises from the engine room. Blanco said Tuesday he still doesn't know why his boat sank, but he said trawl nets were down at the time of the incident, and those nets created a heavy drag at the rear of the boat, and that may have played a role.
The office of Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea called Stoffer's claims "far-fetched."
Meanwhile, an expert on marine vessel design said any number of things could have gone wrong with the Monte Galineiro.
Dag Friis, a professor of ocean and naval architecture at Memorial University in St. John's, said while it is unusual for a fishing vessel to sink so quickly, several things could explain Sunday's incident.
"It's unusual — there's no doubt about that. But it can happen," Friis said.
"It may have had something to do with something having gone wrong in the engine, and maybe a cylinder seizing up and sending the crank or connecting rod out through the side of the vessel."
Friis said a large object floating in the water could have put a hole in the side of the boat.