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The MV Alta split in two over the weekend. Adrian Erangey
MV Alta

MV Alta 'ghost ship' splits in two off Cork coast following successive storms

The ship washed ashore in Co Cork during Storm Dennis in February 2020.

THE MV ALTA, an abandoned cargo ship which ran aground near Ballycotton in Cork over two years ago, has split in two following recent successive storms and bad weather. 

The ‘ghost ship’ arrived in Ballyandreen Bay during Storm Dennis on 15 February 2020 after drifting across the Atlantic for sixteen months.

In recent weeks, Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have battered the coast of Cork, bringing severe winds and coastal flooding in some areas. 

Images shared on Twitter by @BallycottonIRE over the weekend show the ship’s bow and stern completely separated, with other parts of the vessel seen strewn on nearby rocks. 

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said it had been made aware of “recent developments” regarding the MV Alta wreck.

“Cork County Council has taken the lead in dealing with this wreck in its role under the 1993 Act as the Appropriate Authority and has undertaken a number of remedial actions to date,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department is currently commissioning a health and safety assessment of the wreck and will continue to engage with Cork County Council, as appropriate authority on any further action required on foot of this assessment.”

The MV Alta was a merchant ship built in 1976. It was abandoned by its 10-person crew in October 2018 after suffering a main engine failure while en route from Greece to Haiti. 

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

Ten days after the ship washed ashore, Cork County Council said that an operation to remove oil and other possible contaminants which had been collected into barrels had been successfully completed. The council then sealed the ship and rendered it inaccessible.

The council warned the Department of Transport in October 2020 that there was a risk of the hull of the ship breaking apart, and had recruited international experts to advise on what steps it should take to deal with the grounded vessel.

It had 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.

In April 2021, firefighters from Cork County Council extinguished a fire onboard the ship which had engulfed much of the bridge area and accommodation section. 

Gardaí subsequently launched an investigation into the cause of the blaze and urged the public to stay away from the wreck, after sources suspected the fire had been a case of arson.

Cork City Council has been contacted for comment.

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