Person claiming to represent ‘ghost ship’ owner comes forward

Salvage expert says delay in removing ship from Cork coast will increase pollution risk

Personnel from Cork County Council board the wreck of the ghost ship MV Alta, driven aground during Storm Dennis near Ballycotton, Co Cork. Photograph:  David Creedon/Anzenberger

Personnel from Cork County Council board the wreck of the ghost ship MV Alta, driven aground during Storm Dennis near Ballycotton, Co Cork. Photograph: David Creedon/Anzenberger

 

A person claiming to represent the owner of the “ghost ship” which washed up on the Cork coast during Storm Dennis has come forward.

The Revenue Commissioners is the “receiver of wrecks” for the vessel and has been contacted by a person who says they are representing the owner of the MV Alta.

According to a spokesman for the Revenue Commissioners, the person who has made contact has been asked to produce the necessary documentation to prove ownership.

“We are investigating these claims of ownership and are awaiting the production of the necessary documentation to prove these claims of ownership,” a Revenue spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a salvage expert has warned that delays in deciding what to do with the ship will increase the risk of environmental pollution and ultimately lead to a more expensive salvage operation.

Sean Harrington of Atlantic Towage and Marine said he had inspected the MV Alta on the rocks west of Ballycotton where she had become snagged. He said he believed she was currently salvageable without great difficulty but any delay would make the job more difficult and more expensive.

“She’s not that far above the high water mark. She has a gash on her hull but it wasn’t too bad and at low water you could seal up the gash,” he said.

He said the ship “could probably have been pulled off at high tide yesterday”.

“But the longer it goes on, the more she is going to become an environmental hazard and the bigger a job it’s going to become and the more money it’s going to cost to do it,” said Mr Harrington, who has over 10 years experience in the salvage operation.

Based on Bere Island in west Cork, Mr Harrington was involved in the salvage of the racing yacht, Rambler 100 when she overturned off Baltimore in August 2011. He was also involved in the salvage of the Tall Ship, the Astrid when she sank off Kinsale in July 2013.

Little scrap value

He said the 77-metre, 2,300 ton MV Alta has very little scrap value but needs to be removed from the rocks at Ballyandrean to remove any risk of pollution from fuel spillage.

Meanwhile, Cork County Council has said its marine contractor boarded the stricken freighter on Tuesday morning and carried out a preliminary examination of the ship and the pollution risk it posed to the environment from a fuel spillage.

It said the initial indications are that there is only a small amount of diesel fuel in its tanks but the fuel tanks are divided into compartments and not all were accessible for inspection due to water on board the ship.

The marine contractor will begin pumping water from the stricken vessel on Wednesday, it said, which should allow the inspection of the fuel tanks to be completed and a full assessment of the pollution risk that the ship poses.

“There is no cargo on board but a number of sealed containers of oil and other materials incidental to the running of a ship were found which may pose a pollution risk in the event of their spillage. Plans are currently being evaluated in order to have these materials safely removed from the wreck,” it said.

No visible pollution

“Cork County Council remains satisfied that there is currently no visible pollution within the Ballycotton Bay special protection area or nearby proposed natural heritage areas.”

Consultations are continuing with the Irish Coast Guard, the Receiver of Wrecks and other relevant bodies about what to do with the wreck, the council said. The council also said it was aware of reports of members of the public boarding the freighter. It said it is extremely dangerous and could pose a risk to life as the wreck is located on a dangerous and inaccessible stretch of coastline and is in an unstable condition.

The MV Alta was abandoned by its crew of 10 in October 2018 when it became disabled en route from Greece to Haiti. The ship became lodged on the rocks at Ballyandrean near Ballycotton at the height of Storm Dennis on Sunday.