A CORK senator has implored the Government to urgently enact legislation which would give the State greater powers to remove abandoned vessels “littering” seashores around the country.
Speaking in the Seanad in recent days, Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard pointed to the grounded MV Alta, which washed onto rocks near Ballycotton after Storm Dennis struck Ireland in February 2020.
He also highlighted an abandoned vessel in Kinsale which has been tied to the quay for more than 13 years and which Mr Lombard said is “literally taking the quay wall with it into the sea”.
“A plethora of abandoned vessels are literally littering our seashore,” he said. “There is an ironic twist in this tale. Every Saturday morning people are out picking up litter on the beaches.
“There is a significant campaign by the locals to ensure that their shoreline is kept in an appropriate condition. However, the big hand of the State is doing nothing to ensure that the major vessels that are littering our seashore are taken away,” Mr Lombard said.
“If there was an abandoned car in a housing estate, legislation exists to get that car moved within months.
“We do not have the same appropriate response from the Government to ensure that these vessels, which are eroding our environment and are a blight on scenic views, are removed.” Mr Lombard said the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, which would give the State more power to remove shipwrecks, was passed in 2007 but has not yet been enacted.
Minister of State Peter Burke said that currently the relevant legislation that allows for the removal of abandoned vessels in Irish waters is the Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993 and that Section 51 of the act places the initial responsibility for removing a wreck on the owner of the vessel.
“However, if the appropriate authority considers the wreck is, or is likely to become, an obstruction or danger to navigation, or a threat of harm to the marine environment, or to related interests, which includes the health of the public, it shall proceed to raise and remove the wreck or otherwise render it harmless,” he said.
While the 1993 act does allow for the removal of a wreck in such cases, Mr Burke said it does not contain provisions on the costs associated with the removal of a wreck where the sale of a wreck is not possible and the owners of the vessel cannot be located.
The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007, he said, “provides the legal basis for states to remove, or have removed, at the shipowner’s expense, wrecks that may have the potential to adversely affect the safety of lives, goods, and property at sea, as well as the marine environment”.
“Primary legislation is required for Ireland to accede to the convention. It is intended to progress this as part of a future bill,” Mr Burke said.
He added that the convention “does not cover all wreck-removal scenarios”.
Mr Lombard said a greater sense of urgency is needed to enact the legislation.
“We need a date for the primary piece of legislation that is being talked about,” he said.
“Two years ago, I was told it was going to be ‘soon’ but ‘soon’ has come and gone.”
Mr Burke said he would revert to Minister Eamon Ryan on the matter.