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unwanted attraction Fears over fate of ‘ghost ship’ stranded on Cork coast as removal could cost more than €8m

Salvage operation costly and complex


(Photo: Independent.ie)

(Photo: Independent.ie)

(Photo: Independent.ie)

A 'GHOST ship' wrecked on the Cork coast has proven an unwanted tourist attraction amid fears its removal could cost taxpayers more than €8m.

With the ownership of the freighter MV Alta still in doubt, marine officials fear the ship will be left stranded on the rocks unless the State is now willing to pay for its removal in a complex salvage operation.

The 80-metre freighter was driven onto rocks outside Ballycotton at the height of Storm Dennis on February 15 2020.

It is no longer considered to pose a pollution risk to the east Cork coast and a special conservation area following a complex fuel removal operation.

A special helicopter air-lift operation last year successfully removed almost 80 barrels of oil and potential pollutants from the 44 year old ship.

However, such was the severe damage to the freighter's hull that it cannot be refloated unaided.

Over the past year, successive storms have severely damaged the wreck which is wedged on rocks.

A section of the ship's port side has been torn away with several decks having subsided and hull plating having cracked.

One marine source warned that the cost involved in a refloating of the vessel by salvage experts - an operation that would require special tugs and support pontoons - is likely to see any such effort postponed until the ownership of the vessel is legally clarified.

No legally verified claim to ownership has been received.

Further, the salvage value of the vessel given its age and condition is described as negligible.

Removal and salvage costs have been estimated at more than €8m.

The financial impact on Government and council finances from the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to decide the approach now taken to the wreck.

Cork Co Council, the Commissioner for Wrecks and the Government are now liaising over what will be done with the stranded freighter.

There are mounting fears in Ballycotton that the vessel may simply be abandoned at the site as the cheapest option - and left to the fate of future storms.

Locals are worried that the vessel will be treated in the same manner as the crane ship MV Samson which was wrecked on rocks outside Ardmore, just 40km down the coast in 1987.

The Samson was simply abandoned - and remains a rusting wreck beneath sea cliffs outside the Waterford resort.

MV Alta had been drifting abandoned in the Atlantic for almost 17 months after being targeted by pirates and hijackers.

MV Alta was built in 1976 and operated in Europe, Asia and Africa before, as it aged, it was consigned to more risky waters.

It was the focus of an attempted hijacking off Africa and another reported attack by pirates off Guyana in South America.

In October 2018 it broke down some 1,400 nautical miles from Bermuda en route from Greece to Haiti with the US Coastguard having to mount a major rescue operation for the 20-strong multi-national crew.

In September 2019, the vessel was spotted drifting empty and abandoned in the mid Atlantic by a Royal Navy ice patrol ship, HMS Protector.

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