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Gardaí launch investigation into cause of fire on MV Alta 'ghost ship'

The fire broke out on Thursday evening and now gardaí believe it was started intentionally.

A Fire Fighter surveys the damage on the cliff above the MV Alta.
A Fire Fighter surveys the damage on the cliff above the MV Alta.
Image: Cork County Council

GARDAÍ have launched an investigation into a fire onboard the MV Alta the former ghost ship now on rocks near Ballycotton, Co Cork. 

Firefighters from Cork County Council fought a blaze that broke out yesterday evening and reported they had substantially extinguished the blaze last night. 

The fire had engulfed much of the bridge area and accommodation section of the vessel and sources have said that suspicions are that it is a case of arson.

A garda spokesperson confirmed that an investigation is underway into the blaze led by officers from Midleton Garda Station. 

“Gardaí are investigating a fire that occurred on a shipwreck off the coast at Ballycotton, Churchtown South, Cork on April 29 at around 4pm.

“Emergency services attended the scene which is currently preserved for technical examination. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing,” the spokesperson said. 

There were appeals by Cork County Council, the Coastguard and gardaí to the public to not board the vessel. A number of videos on social media of people inside the vessel. 

The Alta has been significantly damaged in winter storms and a large portion of her deck has been swept into the sea. 

The MV Alta, currently stranded along the coast, is a merchant ship built in 1976 that was abandoned by its crew in October 2018 after suffering a mechanical breakdown en route from Greece to Haiti. 

According to a Marine Casualty Investigation Board report, the ship first departed Greece in September 2018 bound for Haiti in the Caribbean but suffered a main engine failure shortly after launching. 

MV Alta drifted for 496 days over a distance of 2,300 nautical miles (NM) to its current position in Ballyandreen Bay. The vessel’s exact position and distance travelled during this time is unknown and unrecorded and can only be estimated.

The Council has indicated three possible options for the future of the wreck: Leave it in situ at Ballyandreen, tow it out to sea and let it sink, or dismantle and remove the wreck.

Responsibility for the wreck, the MCIB report found, rests with Ireland and its maritime search and rescue agencies.

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The report also found that the likelihood of pollution remains high until the wreck is removed and that the cost of removal will likely be borne by the State. 

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