Cost of refloating divisive oyster patrol boat unclear

The view from the Marina. (Supplied picture).
The view from the Marina. (Supplied picture).

The cost of salvaging a Loughs Agency research vessel mysteriously dispatched to Davy Jones’ Locker in Londonderry city centre just before Christmas remains to be seen, according to the waterways authority.

“Loughs Agency are working with our insurance company who have appointed a salvage company who are co-ordinating the recovery of the MMV Ostrea,” a spokesperson told the paper.

“There’s no further information at this stage.”

The Sentinel had asked the Agency what steps are being taken to refloat the boat, how much it is likely to cost and what the timeframe is for the operation.

The paper also asked if any environmental damage is likely to ensue and if the boat is likely to be salvageable.

But at this stage no further information is available.

Londonderry woke on December 15, to discover that the MMV Ostrea was partially submerged at the Foyle Marina.

The Loughs Agency immediately implemented an emergency response plan including the deployment of a boom.

The catamaran eventually sank to the bottom of the Foyle.

There are currently no signs of pollution as a result of the shipwreck.

There has been much speculation about the cost and seaworthiness of the MMV Ostrea since its acquisition in 2009.

Back in 2010, Liam Farren, an Oyster fisherman from Moville, gave evidence to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in his capacity as the managing director of Whiskey Rock Fisheries Limited. and a member of the Lough Foyle Oyster Sub-Committee.

In the briefing, during which Mr Farren displayed a degree of hostility towards the Loughs Agency, he told members: “The MMV Ostrea is the Loughs Agency’s new flagship from New Zealand. It was originally grant aided by both Governments to the tune of £750,000.

“The cost is still rising and Loughs Agency staff blab that the cost of the vessel is now nearer £2million.”

And in 2011, Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill, following a north south meeting with her Ministerial counterpart, Simon Coveney said they “noted with concern a report of an investigation by DARD internal audit of the procurement by the Loughs Agency of its monitoring vessel MMV Ostrea. The report identified significant weaknesses and control issues in the management of the project. We also noted that the report found that there was no evidence of fraudulent activity, that the objectives of the project were achieved and that the finished vessel provides value for money in respect of the current market value of the vessel and its capacity for operational effectiveness.”