£750,000 oyster boat auctioned for just £27,000

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The flagship oyster patrol boat, MMV Ostrea, which was purchased second-hand in New Zealand after the Loughs Agency received £750,000 in EU funding for the purpose, but which sank in the middle of Derry in late 2015, has been sold at auction for just £27,000.

The boat, which dramatically sank overnight while moored at the Foyle Port jetty in December 2015, was sold at an ‘unreserved government auction’ in Mallusk, a spokesperson for the Loughs Agency confirmed.

Back in 2007, the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development’s (DARD)Fisheries Grants Unit issued the Loughs Agency with a letter of offer of £750,000 to purchase a new vessel to scientifically monitor the oyster fisheries of Lough Foyle.

It had hoped to buy a new purpose-built vessel but soon realised that the budget wouldn’t stretch and eventually located a second-hand vessel in New Zealand.

The 17.6m aluminum Catamaran, in Napier, was refitted in Port Nelson. Repairs costing in excess of 20,000 New Zealand dollars were carried out, according to a report sent by the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) to the Irish Auditor on April 1, 2010. After the repairs were completed the boat was shipped across the world to Sheerness in Kent on April 8, 2009.

An internal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) audit acknowledged faults were found with the boat when it arrived in Kent and that further repairs costing £5,000 had to be carried out and that £6,000 was spent on an engineer to travel with the boat to Scotland. When it eventually got to Derry in October 2009 an inspector from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued “a six page report of faults to be addressed and suspended the inspection due to the number of issues identified”’

The 2010 audit quoted a “current insurance value of the vessel [of] (£1.8 million)”.