The Red Crusader Incident (The International Commission of Inquiry between Denmark and Great-Britain regarding the Red Crusader Incident)


On 29 May 1961, the Faroe Island Naval District sent a signal to the Niels Ebbesen, a vessel in charge of fisheries inspection, communicating to it that the Myggenaes Coast Guard Station had reported four British trawlers which could be inside the limit described in the 1959 Exchange of Notes between the Danish and the United Kingdom Governments relating to the temporary regulation of fishing around the Faroe Islands, which was referred to as the blue line shown on a map annexed to that agreement. The captain of the Niels Ebbesen sent Lieutenant Bech, fishery officer and Corporal Kropp, signalman, on board the Red Crusader. The skipper of the Red Crusader then boarded the Niels Ebbesen, where he was informed that his trawler was under arrest. He denied that he had been fishing inside the blue line. He was then ordered to follow the Niels Ebbesen and to go to Thorshavn to be examined and tried by a Faroese Court. At first, the skipper appeared to accept the order. He returned to his trawler with the Danish lieutenant and corporal, and the Red Crusader followed the Niels Ebbesen. However, after a few hours, the Niels Ebbesen received two messages from Lieutenant Bech on board the Red Crusader, one reporting on behalf of Skipper Wood that the Red Crusader was not going to enter Thorshavn, and the other informing his captain that he had been locked up. The captain of the Niels Ebbesen then fired upon the Red Crusader. In an Exchange of Notes dated 15 November 1961, the two Governments requested the Establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on these incidents.

Questions Submitted to the Commission

The Commission was asked to decide whether the Red Crusader had been fishing inside the blue line, or had been inside the blue line with her fishing gear not stowed, on the night of 29 May 1961, and to elucidate the circumstances of the arrest.

Report of the Commission

The Commission first examined the position of the ship on the night in question. On the basis of the radar distances and bearings of the Red Crusader, the Commission found that the trawler had been inside the blue line from 21.00 hours to 21.14 hours. While no proof had been established that the trawler had been fishing, the Commission found that the Red Crusader's fishing gear was not stowed during the time she was inside the blue line. The Commission further found that the first signal to stop had been given by the Niels Ebbesen, and that this signal and the later stop-signals were all given outside the blue line.

Having determined that the trawler had, in fact, been arrested by the Niels Ebbesen, the Commission examined the incidents following this arrest. Concerning the seclusion of the Danish lieutenant and corporal, the skipper of the Red Crusader had admitted his intention to escape from the Niels Ebbesen, and to avoid any altercation with the Danish crewmen by secluding them during the escape attempt. The Commission found that Lieutenant Bech and Corporal Kropp had, therefore, effectively been locked up on board the Red Crusader.

As to the firing, the Commission found that the first shots fired against the Red Crusader were intended to be warning shots to stop and were not aimed to hit the trawler. Thereafter, a warning was given by loud-hailer, as well as the order to stop, and from that moment the Niels Ebbesen proceeded to an effective firing at the Red Crusader.

The Commission concluded that the escape of the Red Crusader in violation of the arrest order received, the seclusion on board of members of the Niels Ebbesen's crew, and the refusal to stop did not justify such violent action on the part of the captain of the Niels Ebbesen. Other means should have been attempted to induce the Red Crusader to resume following the normal arrest procedure. The Commission further noted that the British Government's determination of the cost of repairing the damage caused by the firing and hitting of the trawler had been found reasonable by the Danish agent.

The Commission then examined Denmark's allegations that certain British naval officers had interfered with the authority exercised by the Niels Ebbesen in arresting the trawler. The conduct complained of included the return of the boarding party to the Niels Ebbesen from the Red Crusader, and the alleged interference of H.M.S. Troubridge with the Niels Ebbesen's attempt to return the boarding party to the Red Crusader.

Noting that at the time of the incident misunderstandings had arisen, the Commission concluded that ... the return of the boarding party to the Niels Ebbesen, whatever its cause, was in fact the best solution; nothing would have been gained by the taking to Aberdeen of a Danish naval officer and a Danish rating on board a British trawler which had escaped from the jurisdiction of Danish and Faroese authorities. The Commission found that the British officers had ... made every effort to avoid any recourse to violence between Niels Ebbesen and Red Crusader. Such an attitude and conduct were impeccable.

Case information

Name(s) of Claimant(s) Denmark (State)
Name(s) of Respondent(s) Great-Britain (State)
Names of Parties -
Case number 1961-01
Administering institution Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
Case status Concluded
Type of case Inter-state other
Subject matter or economic sector Agriculture, forestry and fishing
Procedural rules 1899 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
Treaty or contract under which proceedings were commenced -
Language of Proceeding English
Seat of Arbitration (by Country) -
Arbitrator(s), Conciliator(s), Other Neutral(s)

Commissioners: Ch. de Visscher, A. Gros, Captain C. Moolenburgh

Representatives of the Claimant(s) -
Representatives of the Respondent(s) -
Representatives of the Parties
Number of Arbitrators in case 3
Date of commencement of proceeding 15 November 1961
Date of issue of final award 23 March 1962
Length of Proceedings 1-2 years
Additional notes -