NO visible signs of pollution were discovered by Cork County Council’s environmental scientists within the Ballycotton Bay Special Protection Area, where the ghost ship, MV Alta, became stuck on the rocks during Storm Dennis.
The 80-metre, 250 feet cargo vessel which was built in 1976 first made headlines in October 2018 when the US Coast Guard rescued 10 stranded crew members aboard the disabled ship 1,380 miles southeast of Bermuda.
The Tanzanian-flagged ship was said to be transiting from Greece to Haiti when the crew found they were unable to make necessary repairs on the vessel.
It is understood the crew was on board the ship for almost 20 days, running low on food and water when they were rescued by the US Coastguard.
The same ship was then spotted off the West Coast of Africa in September of last year before coming to the attention of the authorities for a third time off the Cork coastline, abandoned and derelict for a year and a half.
This morning, at 7am, a marine contractor will step onboard the vacant vessel during low tide to carry out a further pollution risk assessment.
Any risk in relation to oil, other hazardous substances and pollution from the vessel will be evaluated.
Consultations are continuing between the Irish Coastguard, Cork County Council, the Receiver of Wrecks and other relevant bodies in relation to the future of the wreck.
Speaking at a meeting at County Hall on Monday, Director of Services Kevin Morey who is in charge of the wreck assessment, said the issue was still evolving at present.
“This abandoned ship just west of Ballycotton, it is something that Cork County Council is investigating but we are also liaising with the other relevant authorities.
“Our primary concern is the risk of pollution, Cork County Council has a particular responsibility for pollution onshore; pollution on the water is a matter for the coastguard.
“Between the two organisations we have made a number of calls and continue to do so as to how we can assess the risk of oil pollution or other hazardous material, so we are agreeing on a plan of action with the Coastguard.” Mr Morey said that the main issue at present is potential pollution.
“It’s not an oil tanker, there is not crude oil onboard and it is not a heavy tanker, it is not fuelled by heavy oil, it is a diesel tanker, which is important because diesel fuel is less of a pollutant risk.
“We need to establish how much diesel is on board. The other parties relevant to this are the Commissioners of Wreck, they are appointees of the Revenue who have powers and obligations in terms of taking over the wreck.
“Firstly they will try to assess the ownership and who the owners are. It is quite a complex situation, with different bodies involved. Our sole focus at present is assessing the risk of pollution and that is what we are focused on, together with the coastguard.”
Carrigtwohill councillor Anthony Barry said he found it incredible that this could happen in this day and age.
“A ship appears out of nowhere, no one knows anything about it and it’s now posing an environmental risk, I think that is incredible. I wish the members would get a report as to how this could be left happen.
“I find it incredible that this was left abandoned at sea for so long, it could have been towed to safety at a much earlier time, I would like to see what happened. I don’t care what bodies are involved now, it is a mess and it is unacceptable.” Cork County Council is again asking members of the public to stay away from the wreck location as it is located on a dangerous and inaccessible stretch of coastline and is in an unstable condition.