Dáil Éireann - Volume 333 - 31 March, 1982

Private Notice Question. - Disposal of Wreck.

Mr. Begley asked the Minister for Transport the action he proposes to take regarding the wreckage of the Ranga off the Dingle Peninsula in view of the imminent danger of widespread and serious pollution if the wreck breaks up.

Minister for Transport (Mr. Wilson): I am informed by my Department's surveyors that the Ranga is empty except for about ten tons of lubricating oil. This is a very light form of oil which would, if released, merely form a light film on the surface of the sea, and would be quickly broken up by wave action. I also understand that the wreck represents no danger to navigation.

I am exploring further the possibility of requiring the owners of the wreck to remove it from the sea.

Mr. Begley: Can the Minister tell us if his surveyors went underneath the ship to discover whether it contained light oil or crude oil? Can I take it from the Minister's reply that the Minister has acted the part of Pontius Pilate — he now expects the seas down there to do what his Department should be doing?

Mr. Wilson: Would the Deputy repeat that?

An Ceann Comhairle: The phrase is not allowed.

Mr. Begley: It is withdrawn.

Mr. Wilson: The Deputy is a saint in the Coptic Church. Pontius Pilate used water not oil, for the Deputy's information. There are only ten tons of lubricating [1062] oil left in the wreck, which originally held 232 tons of fuel oil and 60 tons of gas oil. That oil had been stored in a double bottom of the ship. That double bottom was ripped off and the oil has been dispersed. Only ten tons of light oil still remain in the wreck.

Mr. Begley: Is the Minister telling the House that he hopes the seas will disperse this oil, a job his Department should be looking after? Anybody who has visited the beach will tell the Minister it is black with liquid oil. I appeal to the Minister to ask his officials to go down again and arrange to have the oil in the wreck pumped out of it.

Mr. Wilson: I assure the Deputy it is my concern and the concern of the Department that the least possible damage will be done to that beautiful place where the ship was wrecked. Unfortunately, already 292 tons of fuel and gas oils have been dispersed in the area and I cannot assure the House that there are no traces of that oil, although for the most part it has been broken up. I will ask my surveyors to go there again to make all possible preparations to ask the owner to remove the wreck. If it was in a harbour, the harbour authority could remove it. If it was in the harbour or in a shipping lane, the Commissioners of Irish Lights could do it. I am trying to have the owner identified. I will ask him to have it removed so that the least possible damage will be done to the area which Deputy Begley and others appreciate so much.

Mr. Begley: I appreciate the Minister's reply, but suppose the owner refuses to remove the wreck, what will he do? How many gallons of oil do the ten tons he mentioned represent? Would the Minister be prepared to go down there himself to see the way this lovely beach is being destroyed? Surely the people of the Dingle Peninsula deserve more than to have their amenities destroyed in this way.

Mr. Wilson: I know the Deputy is very upset about what has happened. I assure him that in so far as obligations lie on my [1063] Department those obligations will be fulfilled. We will even go beyond any obligations we have to see to it that the least possible damage will be done to the bay.

Mr. McMahon: What action will the Department take if the owner should refuse to remove the wreck? The Minister said he would ask the owner to remove the wreck, but the wreck has been there for some time and action has not been taken.

Mr. Wilson: It has not been there all that long. It was washed ashore on 11 March around midnight. My first move is to identify the owner and then to ask him to remove the wreck. Whatever land between the boat and low water mark belongs to the State, I have the power under common law to remove a wreck. I have not power to force the owner to remove it, but I have power to remove it if he refuses to do it.

Mr. Farrelly: The Minister did not tell us how many gallons are represented in ten tons of oil.

Mr. Wilson: I would not presume to enlighten the Deputy on that off the top of my head. I will check it for him.

Mr. Boland: In view of the fact that the Department have responsibility for the area of water in which the wreck is, will he assure us that the Department will take all necessary steps to see that the wreck will be removed before the onset of the tourist season?

Mr. Wilson: My Department will monitor and keep a very close eye so that there will be no damage to shipping and that there will be only minimum damage to amenities.