The Government has been accused of "passing the buck" on the status of a shipwreck off the coast of Cork.
The MV Alta was washed onto rocks by the force of Storm Dennis about three miles west of Ballycotton on February 15, 2020. A report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board found the ship had drifted over 2,300 nautical miles for 496 days before being shipwrecked.
Since, the ship has become an attraction for sightseers and people posting pictures on social media. Last week, local fire crews and emergency services had to extinguish a blaze aboard the ship, and concerns are growing about the health and safety risks posed by the wreck.
Junior transport minister Hildegarde Naughton told local Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley that the State is likely to bear the cost of the removal because the owner of the ship has never been identified. In response to questioning, she said her department had established a working group to examine the dangers posed by abandoned ships in Irish waters.
"My department has established a working group to explore the risks and potential costs to the State presented by derelict ships entering Irish territorial waters and coming ashore in Ireland, and to make proposals for means to identify, monitor, track, and interdict derelict ships before they endanger other ships and seafarers in the vicinity," said Ms Naughton.
"While the Merchant Shipping (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993 does allow for the removal of a wreck, it does not contain provisions in relation to the costs associated with the removal of a wreck where the sale of that wreck is not possible and the owners of the vessel cannot be located."
Ms Naughton said that Cork County Council, which has spent considerable money to make the wreck environmentally safe, is the lead agency in handling the situation.
However, Mr Buckley said he was dissatisfied with the response from the minister and told thehe would be resubmitting some of his queries as he felt "the Government was passing the buck".
"It's a health and safety issue at this point," said Mr Buckley. "Between the people crossing private lands to see it, people climbing on to it, and now the fire, something will need to be done. Local landowners are getting nervous about what will happen into the summer."
"It feels like the Government is passing the buck and just hoping that this will break apart and sink into the sea."
The ship had been sailing from Greece to Haiti in September 2018 when it became disabled about 2,220km south-east of Bermuda.
The 10 crew members were rescued by the US Coast Guard and brought to Puerto Rico.
It is believed the ship was then towed to Guyana but later hijacked a number of times.