Experts examine MV Alta ghost ship to determine potential risks to east Cork environment

Experts examine MV Alta ghost ship to determine potential risks to east Cork environment
Tour guide Eddie Fitzgerald on board the Rebecca-C giving a talk about the MV Alta ghost ship.

Experts have been asked to examine the MV Alta ghost ship, which remains stuck fast on the Cork coast, for any potential risks to the environment.

The results of the study will determine the future of the wreck which was washed ashore near Ballycotton six months ago, Cork County Council said.

The 80m freighter was washed onto rocks about three miles west of Ballycotton on February 15 last as Storm Dennis battered the country.

The 44-year-old cargo vessel had been abandoned by her 10-strong crew during a storm near Bermuda some 16 months earlier, and after their rescue by the US coast guard, the ship was left adrift in the Atlantic.

It remained lost at sea until it was spotted last September by the Royal Navy in the mid-Atlantic, before it was driven by Storm Dennis onto the Cork coast last February.

EE 17/02/2020 NEWS - The MV Alta being battered by waves as it lies on the rocks near Ballyanna, Ballycotton. Picture: Howard Crowdy
EE 17/02/2020 NEWS - The MV Alta being battered by waves as it lies on the rocks near Ballyanna, Ballycotton. Picture: Howard Crowdy

Within days, Cork County Council oversaw a major clean-up which involved a helicopter air-lift to remove almost 80 barrels of oil and potential pollutants from the ship.

The wreck attracted a steady stream of sightseers to the area's cliffwalk.

But despite efforts to secure the vessel, people have been able to board it from the shore at low-tide - some are boarding for a dare and posting images online, while others are in search of scrap metal.

The authorities have issued several warnings about the dangers of such activity.

Local marine leisure firm, Ballycotton Sea Adventures, said last week that it has seen huge demand for its new sight-seeing trips to the wreck along the coast onboard its catamaran.

Skipper Alan Cott said he felt it was better to view it from the safety of their catamaran than to have large crowds traipsing along the cliffwalk.

In a statement, Cork County Council said while it is satisfied that any pollutants stored on the vessel have been removed, it is taking more steps to deal with the wreck.

“We have engaged ecological and environmental consultants to assess whether there are any further risks posed by the vessel in its current state,” a spokesman said. “This work was delayed by the pandemic restrictions but has recently resumed.

“The council also plans to carry out an assessment of the materials in the structure of the vessel itself to establish whether there are elements which could be considered harmful.

“The results of these studies will inform a decision on what actions, if any, may be required of the owners, their insurers or any responsible body.” 

Wreck of the ghost ship MV Alta which was driven aground during Storm Dennis near Ballycotton, Co. Cork, Ireland. 
Wreck of the ghost ship MV Alta which was driven aground during Storm Dennis near Ballycotton, Co. Cork, Ireland. 

A salvage operation could cost anything from €5m to €10m, experts have suggested.

It is understood that the owner of the vessel has come forward and identified himself to the Receiver of Wrecks and that he and the vessel's insurers will be informed of the outcome of the various reports.

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