Coast Guard presses Astrid’s insurers for prompt removal of shipwreck

The Irish Coast Guard has upped the pressure on the insurers of the grounded tall ship Astrid to ensure it is removed from the coastline soon.

Senior Coast Guard officers were in contact with the Dutch insurers yesterday seeking an update on the wreck removal plan.

The 95-year-old vessel suffered engine failure and was blown on to rocks at the mouth of Oysterhaven bay, near Kinsale in Co Cork, just before 12pm last Wednesday.

All 30 on board — 23 trainees, including eight Irish, its six Belgian crew and its Dutch captain, Pieter de Kamwere saved in a dramatic and complex rescue operation involving local RNLI units and the Coast Guard.

It is understood that several Irish salvage experts spent the weekend preparing a detailed and comprehensive removal plan, which was still being assessed by the insurers yesterday. It must be presented to, examined and signed off on by the Coast Guard before work can start.

Paddy Agnew, of Subsea Marine, Irish commercial diving experts and specialists in salvage and recovery operations, was among a team to dive on the wreck on Thursday.

After a preliminary examination, they found extensive damage, including tearing and inch-sized openings along the hull, spreading of plates, and popping of rivets.

He described the vessel last night as a total constructive loss and said there is a slim chance she will ever sail again.

He said the removal operation will be hazardous, technically challenging and will be completely weather dependent.

The salvage team will have to first remove an estimated 3.5 tonnes of diesel from the vessel which has four fuel tanks — two of which were empty when she ran aground.

Divers will then have to pump water from certain areas of the ship, and cut away certain equipment, rigging and masts. A huge floating crane will hoist the 250-tonne vessel free from the rocks.

Pending the official awarding of the salvage contract, and the green light from the Coast Guard, it is understood that a team of expert divers, and a Munster- based salvage company, are poised to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, the two Coast Guard officers are still patrolling the cliffs above the wreck site to keep onlookers away.

A 200m exclusion zone remains in place around the wreck.

The naval service has left the area and the exclusion zone is being enforced by regular patrols by the crew of the Crosshaven inshore lifeboat.

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