As the Minister will be aware, the MV Alta ran aground in Ballycotten last February and unfortunately, it is still there. It has not been moved. It is a massive blight on the area of Ballycotten. We pride ourselves on the coastal area. It is also a health and safety issue that has been ongoing since last February and has not been addressed. I spoke to the landowner and contacted the Minister's Department last year.
A contractor would have gone down and removed the ship, with the permission of the landowner, but that was ignored. I have come back here again at the end of the year, unfortunately. I have read the report on the MV Alta by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB. While I have read that, I have come across statements on the report by a barrister in which he stated "The Marine Casualty Investigation Board ... report into the grounding of the MV 'Alta' ... is deplorably deficient and should be withdrawn as a national embarrassment." I am quoting from this gentleman’s statement because it goes on to state that in the case of the MV Alta, the failure to make appropriate recommendations following previous incidents are the reasons for the current unnecessary problem. There is now, again, a failed MCIB report into the incident that cannot even identify the legal basis, we as a nation, have in place for such incidences. While the MCIB report states that the State is empowered by the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks of 2007 to remove the wreck of the MV Alta, the review of that report notes that convention has not even been ratified yet, so the Department is coming from the wrong side. These are not my words but those of a review of the situation. It states that an issue arising from the MV Alta grounding is there was no indication that a derelict vessel was in Irish waters for some weeks. They reckon the ship was in Irish waters for approximately two months. A British naval vessel, however, had spotted the MV Alta afloat and Deputies may not be aware that the MV Alta came from somewhere over in the Caribbean.
I raise this matter because there have been other instances with marine tragedies over the years. The 35th anniversary of the MV Kowloon Bridge disaster is coming up this month. As an island State, we seem to have no joined-up thinking when it comes to who is responsible for these wreckages. We could be met with a natural disaster at any time. We are the gateway in the Atlantic, for ships that go up north or come back down the other side of our country to get to France. Our seaways are extremely busy.
People in Ballycotton have raised the issue with me to ask why the Department has not got rid of this wreckage. On top of that, the Department gave responsibility for removing the wreckage to Cork County Council. They are not experts in salvage in Cork County Council. In fairness, the county council did tidy it up and they did make it safe. Unfortunately, as we speak, that wreckage is starting to break up. It is an absolute eyesore and nobody is taking responsibility for the wreckage. Yet, when there was an easy option of removing it from the rocks in Ballyandreen Bay, the Department unfortunately ignored it. That would have been a quick fix. The contractor intended to remove the ship for free because he possibly would have got the value of the salvage. The landowner would have had the peace of mind that nobody was trespassing on his land and that he was not going to be sued.
Could the Minister of State give a timeline or a date when the MV Alta will be removed from Ballycotton?