Stornoway Coastguard operations room was called to a state of high alert just before 4pm yesterday afternoon (Tuesday October 2nd) in response to an urgent distress message from an unknown vessel.
The DSE (text-style) alert came in automatically in response to a signal being triggered aboard a vessel somewhere in the large area of sea and loch off the west coast of the mainland. Just a ship identity number was included in the message, without a specific location.
Coastguards issued a ‘pan pan’ emergency call to all vessels to see whether any had spotted another vessel in distress. They also tasked Portree and Lochinver lifeboats and scrambled coastguard rescue teams around Loch Broom and Loch Gairloch.
Meanwhile ops room staff identified the ship’s identity number as a vessel called ‘Zephyr’, and asked Stornoway Coastguard helicopter, on a routine training mission over the Minch, to overfly the large search area and locate the vessel.
Zephyr was found to be tied up at the pier at Badachro in Loch Gairloch, and the owner later phoned from his home to say he was safe and well.
A Stornoway Coastguard spokesman said: “This was obviously an accidental activation of an alarm which needed investigation nevertheless. The DSE urgency message only came in on one aerial, which covers a huge area, so a wide and immediate response was needed. The man has no idea how the alarm was activated but we were happy to find that he was not in need of help.”