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Residents sound off over return of foghorns

By Rebecca Black

Published 03/10/2015

Thick fog covered the River Lagan and large swathes of Belfast yesterday morning
Thick fog covered the River Lagan and large swathes of Belfast yesterday morning

People living along Belfast Lough were up in arms yesterday after being woken at 6am by a ship's foghorn.

Foghorns were once as common a noise as airplanes in the sky, with regular blasts coming from klaxons lining the lough to help vessels navigate safely.

But these days, with so many advanced satellite technology systems available, sailors no longer rely on them -although international shipping rules state that they must be sounded when there is limited visibility.

And with the thick mist across Northern Ireland on mornings this week, many residents living near the lough, from Donaghadee to Carrickfergus to the city itself, were woken at 6am by a ship blasting its foghorn as it approached the port.

According to the The Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996, there are 11 different types of foghorn blast depending on the size and type of ship and the conditions.

They range from one prolonged sound with intervals of not more than two minutes, to two prolonged blasts in succession with an interval of about two seconds for stationary ships. Fishing vessels, meanwhile, can use one prolonged blast, followed by two short blasts, every two minutes.

The first type of blast is believed to have been the one heard on Belfast Lough.

It provoked a sharp debate on Twitter in the early hours between those it woke.

Scott Jamieson, from Belfast, complained that he had been aroused from his slumber early several mornings during the week by foghorns, including yesterday.

"I wish I could (sleep through them)," he wrote. "I live right beside the water, so they're difficult to miss. The novelty wears off pretty quickly."

Another Twitter user calling themselves Carsie said the foghorns started around 6am, and criticised them as "not so good #UnwantedAlarmCall".

But John Bennett hit back and said the warning sounds were in place for a good reason. "I can live with that better than an accident," he wrote.

And Andrew Trimble said: "Surely better if it's foggy to use a foghorn than for a major accident! #commonsense".

Ross McCullagh also backed those defending the foghorns. "Next they'll be saying planes need to turn off engines and glide into Belfast," he said.

And Evelyn Leebody added: "I think it sounded great - it was like New Year's Eve. Better to be safe than sorry!"

A spokesman for Belfast Harbour said ships were merely abiding by the law. He added: "Vessels operating in restricted visibility are required by international law to use foghorns or other sound signals as a safety measure.

"Belfast Harbour itself discontinued the use of foghorns several years ago."

There is a good chance of more early morning foghorns this weekend, with the Met Office forecasting the high pressure that has given us the present clear, still, bright days with chilly nights and foggy dawns will last until tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph

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