A “ghost ship” abandoned for over a year and drifting in the Atlantic finally washed ashore in Ireland amid Storm Dennis’ choppy water, the country’s coast guard says.
The MV Alta was found on the coast near Ballycotton, a small town in southern Ireland’s County Cork, with no crew on board, the Irish Coast Guard said Sunday.
The county’s local council asked the public to stay away from the vessel as crews work to determine whether it posses any environmental risk. The council said “no visible pollution” has been identified, and a team was expected to board the ship Tuesday.
The roughly 250-foot vessel was abandoned in October 2018 after the U.S. Coast Guard rescued its stranded crew that was without power, Lt. Amanda Faulkner, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard’s 5th District, told USA TODAY.
The cargo ship, flying under a Tanzanian flag, was roughly 1,300 miles southeast of Bermuda when the U.S. Coast Guard received the distress call in September, Faulkner said. The ship’s owner planned to send a tug to rescue it, and the Coast Guard airdropped supplies to the crew in the meantime.
“When it became apparent the ocean going tug wasn’t going to work out, that’s when we went the sent (the rescue crew),” Faulkner said. Due to poor weather and the MV Alta’s configuration, the U.S. Coast Guard could not tug the boat, so it brought the 10-member crew to Puerto Rico and left the vessel afloat, Faulkner said.
What happened to the ship next is unclear. Faulkner said the Coast Guard tracked the vessel for a few weeks so they could warn others in the area that the ship was abandoned, but they eventually stopped receiving reports of sightings and had no jurisdiction over the ship out in open water.
The Irish Post reported that the MV Alta, built in 1976, was towed toward Guyana but may have been hijacked along the way.
In August 2019, the HMS Protector, a British ice patrol ship, reported encountering the ship while out in the Atlantic Ocean, but no crew was on board.
Storm Dennis has brought rough waters, heavy rains and strong winds to Ireland and the United Kingdom in recent days.
Cork County Council said it was consulting with the Irish Coast Guard and the country’s receiver of wrecks, an official who tends to wrecked ships, to determine MV Alta’s future.
Every flag state has different requirements for how to handle ships if a crew abandons it, but abandoning ships is not the norm, Faulkner said.
“We don’t get a lot of cases like this,” she said.
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