WORK ON the controversial pipeline to the Corrib gas field is set to start within weeks following the arrival of the world’s largest pipe-laying vessel.
The giant 400m (1,300ft) long Solitaire has been anchored in Killybegs port, Co Donegal, for several days and will be based there during the laying of 83km (51 miles) of underwater pipeline from Glengad in Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo, to the Corrib gas field.
The Solitaire, which is 96,000 tonnes and requires more than 18m of water when fully laden, welds sections of the gas pipeline on board. The ship is more than twice the size of the world’s biggest fishing vessel, Atlantic Dawn.
When the underwater pipe-laying operation is fully under way, the Solitaire will have a crew of up to 550 on board and 15 support vessels, which will be serviced by existing marine-related services from the new pier at Killybegs.
Joey Murrin, former chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, who campaigned for the new pier, said: “It was the best €50 million the government ever spent in Donegal.
“Naturally I am saddened by the state of the fishing industry, but we need alternatives, and I see this pier as part of the future development of Killybegs. Oil and gas is a part of that.”
Jim Parkinson, managing director of Sinbad Marine Services, the company with responsibility for logistics management and crew changing while the pipeline is being constructed, said that the contract would have a huge impact on Killybegs.
“It fits hand in glove with the fishing industry. For three months of the year the port is a fishing port and for nine months it is a commercial port.
“I believe the two can work together. Fishermen can get employment during their off season, and stevedores, crane drivers and ships’ chandlers can all provide their services.”
He believed the benefits for the Killybegs area would continue after the work on the Corrib project is completed.
He said: “We don’t necessarily know what is coming at us but we are flexible, capable, enthusiastic and looking forward to a positive future for Killybegs.”
Shell to Sea, the lobby group opposed to the Corrib gas terminal and pipeline being constructed on land, has hit out at the latest move to build the underwater section.
They claimed that with planning permission for the onshore section still under consideration, work on the offshore section is “extremely premature”. They demanded that the Green Party’s two Cabinet Ministers, John Gormley and Eamon Ryan, halt the offshore work.
The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association says it will not be co-operating with Shell on the pipelaying until the company engages with it in a “meaningful way”.
Mayo fishermen who have gear on the offshore route are angry over lack of notice given by the multinational.
The fishermen’s association has serious concerns about the location of the refinery discharge pipe and its impact on the marine environment. It claims it was not informed of the offshore pipelaying plans.
The Irish Times