'Ghost ship' washes ashore in Ireland after spending more than a year at sea
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'Ghost ship' washes ashore in Ireland after spending more than a year at sea

AN ABANDONED ‘ghost ship’ has run aground near the fishing village of Ballycotton in County Cork.

The Coast Guard has requested that the public stay away from the 2,200-tonne cargo ship which washed up on the coast of the Emerald Isle in the wake of Storm Dennis.

Measuring 77 metres in length, the MV Alta vessel had been drifting for well over a year, taking in the Americas, Africa and Europe during that time.

Originally built in 1976, despite some rusting and a lack of crew, the ship remained afloat prior to running aground 2km west of Ballycotton on Sunday, February 16.

The crew of the Alta first abandoned the vessel 16 months ago after its engines failed in the middle of the Atlantic.

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Unable to repair the problem, the 10-man crew were eventually rescued by the US coastguard and transported to Puerto Rico.

The ship was subsequently towed towards Guyana but ended up being hijacked along the way.

It was next spotted in the mid-Atlantic in August 2019 by the Royal Navy ice patrol ship, HMS Protector, where it was once again unmanned.

Discussions are ongoing between the Irish coastguard, local council and Ireland’s commissioner of wrecks to determine what to do.

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A coastguard team has completed an assessment of the Alta via a helicopter.

It is thought that the vessel is diesel fuelled meaning it poses less of risk of pollution than heavy fuel oil tanker.

A council statement read: “Cork county council is asking members of the public to stay away from the wreck location as it is situated on a dangerous and inaccessible stretch of coastline and is in an unstable condition.”

A local authority spokesperson added: "Cork County Council’s Environmental Scientists have visited the area and are satisfied that there is currently no visible pollution within the Ballycotton Bay Special Protection Area or nearby proposed Natural Heritage Areas.

"Cork County Council has consulted with the Coast Guard in terms of pollution risk and the parties have agreed to have an initial assessment of pollution risk carried out. The council has requested its marine contractor to carry out this initial assessment of the wreck.

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"Following an appropriate risk assessment, the contractor will board the vessel at the next suitable opportunity which is expected to be at low tide tomorrow morning, Tuesday, February 18 at approximately 7am.

"Any risk in relation to oil, other hazardous substances and pollution from the vessel will be evaluated."