Council recruits international experts to advise on ghost ship off Cork coast

Abandoned MV Alta drifted across Atlantic and washed up in Ballyandreane a year ago

Cork County Council has recruited international experts to advise on what steps it should take to deal with the grounded 'ghost ship', MV Alta which washed up on the coast near Ballycotton a year ago today.

The 77m freighter drifted across the Atlantic after the US Coast Guard rescued her crew of 10, who had been en route from Greece to Haiti, some 2,000km southeast of Bermuda in October 2018. She finally came to rest when washed on to rocks at Ballyandreane in east Cork by Storm Denis.

A salvage expert engaged by the council to remove oil and diesel from the MV Alta successfully did so last February, but the vessel has since lain stricken on the rocks at Ballyandreane at the mercy of the sea.

The council has now engaged international specialist consultants to examine the steel hull of the 2,300 tonne freighter and their report will determine what steps are taken next with regard to the vessel. The consultants were asked to prepare an inventory of hazardous materials on the fabric of the vessel.


“An environmental assessment of this inventory will inform what interventions may be required next,” said the council, which confirmed that structural assessments of the ship were carried out last March and October and will continue every six months.

The council has asked Government departments for their views on the future of the wreck and to secure funding in the event that a significant intervention regarding the vessel is required.

The council says it has been working through a series of actions in line with its obligations under the Merchant Shipping Salvage and Wreck Act 1993, which saw an official from the Revenue Commissioners appointed as Receiver of Wreck for the MV Alta.

The council said there has been no confirmation of ownership of the wreckage to date, which would enable the State to attempt to recoup the costs incurred in handling the 45-year-old freighter and stopping it becoming a pollution hazard.

The Irish Times established that the MV Alta appears to have had a chequered history in terms of ownership with various maritime websites suggesting it may have changed ownership after being abandoned by her crew and left to drift in the Atlantic.

According to Insurance Marine News, when the US Coast Guard rescued the crew after the engine failed in October 2018, the ship was registered in Tanzania. The MV Alta was at that stage owned and managed by Alta Shipping of Miami, Florida.

But on August 30th, 2019, a UK royal navy patrol ship encountered the vessel off the African coast while on its way to the Bahamas to assist with hurricane relief efforts. It attempted to make contact with the ship but received no response.

According to the Marine Traffic website, the MV Alta was by then registered in Norway, having also been registered in Panama during the period it was adrift at sea.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times