Monday 17 August 2009

Marine inquiry launched as Corrib gas vessel hits rocks

THE DEPARTMENT of Transport and Shell EP Ireland have initiated separate investigations into the grounding of a Corrib gas project support vessel off Erris Head in Co Mayo early yesterday.

The 32-metre Flamingo with five people on board ran up on rocks close to Ooghran Point between Erris Head and Ballyglass shortly after 5am.

Weather in the area was not reported to be severe, with a west-southwesterly force five, according to the Irish Coast Guard. It said a small fuel leakage did not constitute a pollution risk. A diesel slick was contained with booms and a skimmer was deployed, according to Shell EP Ireland.

The vessel, which has been contracted from Pacific Blue for the offshore pipelaying work, sought assistance at about 5.15am yesterday.

Two boats close by, including a rigid inflatable, reached the Flamingo before the lifeboat. They assisted along with the Donegal tug Nomad, owned by Sinbad Marine of Killybegs and also hired for the offshore pipelaying.

The vessel was towed to shelter in Broadhaven Bay and diesel fuel was pumped off. Plans were made later to tow it to Killybegs.

The department confirmed that its marine survey office was investigating the circumstances and Shell is conducting its own internal inquiry. A fly-over of the area by the Irish Coast Guard Sligo-based helicopter yesterday afternoon confirmed that there was no serious pollution, but the situation would be “monitored”.

A Shell EP Ireland spokesman said the incident would not delay the continuing work to backfill the trench, which was dug for the offshore section.

The 83km Corrib gas offshore pipeline has been laid from Glengad and through Broadhaven Bay out to the manifold at the Corrib gas field. Hydrotesting of the pipe has been completed, according to the company.

Spills of a chemical additive during testing on July 29th and of a small amount of oil at Glengad late June, have been reported to an environmental consultancy which was commissioned by the department to monitor work.

The consultancy has informed the department that there is “no ecological impact” as a result of the chemical additive spill.

The offshore pipelaying work began in late June amid heavy security, shortly after An Bord Pleanála completed its oral hearing on the planning application into a modified route and compulsory acquisition orders for the onshore pipeline.

The appeals board has deferred a decision until on or before October 23rd, due to the “complex nature” of the application.

Irish Times

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