Irish Examiner View: Council may face clean-up bill - Apply Kowloon lessons to Alta

When the Mary Celeste, an American brigantine, was discovered adrift and deserted off the Azores in 1872 it opened a mystery that remains unresolved.

Irish Examiner View: Council may face clean-up bill - Apply Kowloon lessons to Alta

When the Mary Celeste, an American brigantine, was discovered adrift and deserted off the Azores in 1872 it opened a mystery that remains unresolved.

It was found in a distressed but seaworthy condition but her lifeboat was missing. A cargo of alcohol was untouched.

The crew’s belongings were undisturbed but none of those on board was seen again.

No such mystery surrounds MV Alta, an abandoned 77m freighter washed up on the Cork shore near Ballycotton during the weekend’s Storm Dennis.

The vessel has been drifting like so much flotsam and jetsam since the US coast guard rescued its 10-man crew in October 2018, about 2,220km southeast of Bermuda.

The wreck poses a pollution risk. Should that threat materialise, the clean up bill may fall to the local authority. If the wreck has any salvage value then the county council might consider quickly claiming it to offset those costs.

Though it is more than 30 years since the Kowloon Bridge suffered a similar fate just off Toe Head near Baltimore, it should not be forgotten that despite promises from then taoiseach Charles Haughey, the insurers Lloyd’s, and the conglomerate of bankers who owned the ship, the council had to bear the full cost of that unwelcome obligation.

The environmental impact was considerable too, so the relevant authorities should be assertive in trying to minimise any costs that might flow from the Alta wreck.

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