The High Court has formally dismissed an action by one of the country's largest cargo shipping companies over an accident in which one of its vessels was damaged when it hit a sandbank in Drogheda Port nearly three years ago.
The Arklow Shipping Group sought some €1.4 million from the Drogheda Port Company for damage to the "Arklow Valour" ship when it hit a sandbank as it was navigating the mouth of the Boyne river port on leaving harbour on December 13th, 2018.
Arklow claimed the Drogheda company was negligent in relation to the reliability of information about how deep the water was that day to ensure enough under-keel clearance for the vessel which was loaded with 4,000 metric tonnes of cement from Cement Roadstone Holdings bound for Britain.
Depths change due to the silty sandy nature of the harbour and the effects of tides.
Drogheda maintained that the appropriate draught of the vessel was, at all times, a matter for its master who the port company argued must bear ultimate responsibility for the safe navigation of the vessel.
Following the accident, the cargo was removed the next day, sent to its destination, and the Arklow Valour was refloated and went to Swansea harbour for repairs.
Arklow’s central claim was that Drogheda had a duty to know what the under-keel clearance was by taking regular “depth soundings”.
In a judgment last month, Mr Justice Denis McDonald rejected Arklow’s case saying it had failed to establish causation for the accident.
On Friday, he formally dismissed Arklow’s case and awarded costs of seven days of the eight-day trial to Drogheda. He disallowed costs for certain reports.
In his judgment, he said the principal plank of Arklow’s case was that the vessel was exposed to danger because the advice given by the Drogheda harbour master was wrong.
He said that it had not been established by Arklow that Drogheda failed to take account of the five tidal readings taken in the period prior to the grounding.
Arklow also failed to establish that there was a failure by the port company to have regard to the weather, he said.
There was also no actionable failure to take depth soundings in the period between December 10th and 13th, 2018, he said.
While he held that soundings could have been taken in the course of the morning of December 12th, he found this was unlikely to have made any appreciable difference as it was the period after the 12th which was critical in terms of the accumulation of silt. He found it was not feasible to take soundings during that period.
He also said there was no sufficient basis to conclude that the port company should have prevented the vessel from sailing until there was an opportunity to carry out a further survey after the weather events on the evening of December 12th and the first part of the day on December 13th.
The judge put a stay on his order for costs against Arklow in the event of an appeal.