Abandoned cargo ship runs aground on Irish coast after drifting for over a year

Photo: Irish Coast Guard

An abandoned cargo ship that had been drifting in the Atlantic Ocean for over a year has finally run aground, coming to rest on the shores of County Cork in southwestern Ireland on Sunday, February 16.

The Panamanian-flagged Alta beached near the small fishing village of Ballycotton at approximately 13:15 local time on Sunday. No one was on board the vessel at the time of the grounding.

The Irish Coast Guard and the Cork County Council then ordered that Alta be boarded to assess whether it poses a risk to nearby residents and the surrounding marine environment. However, it took marine surveyors another two days before they could board the vessel as they waited for Storm Dennis to sweep northward out of area of the grounding.

The storm, which had reported wind gusts of up to 64 knots, had been battering Ireland’s southern coast for nearly 24 hours when the derelict vessel ran aground.

Surveyors finally managed to board Alta at low tide on Tuesday, February 18, and were able to confirm that the fuel tanks still had marine gas oil in them. Efforts are now underway to pump out the MGO to allow the surveyors to more thoroughly and safely conduct a risk assessment of the vessel.

The Irish Coast Guard had been continually tracking Alta since it drifted into the country’s waters.

The vessel had been sailing from Greece to Haiti when it became disabled at a point 2,220 kilometres southeast of Bermuda on September 19, 2018. The entire crew were later brought on board the US Coast Guard cutter Confidence on October 8, 2018, after it became evident that Alta could not be repaired to enable it to resume its voyage to Haiti.

The abandoned vessel then went adrift in the Atlantic, even inadvertently crossing paths with the Royal Navy ice patrol and research ship HMS Protector several months later on August 31, 2019, as the latter was en route to Bermuda as part of a scheduled voyage to Antarctica.

Alta‘s grounding, which brought an end to the derelict vessel’s 16-month journey across the Atlantic, was believed to have been caused by the storm.

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