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    Dutch ship that grounded off Cork 'should not have been at sea' - Irish Times

    The official investigation into the grounding of a Dutch-registered sail training vessel with 30 people on board off the Cork coast in July 2013 says the engine failed due to freshwater contamination of a fuel tank.

    The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) final report has criticised “inadequate” passage planning, “unsafe” altering of course and incorrect issue of a “mayday alert” by the MV Astrid.

    The 42-metre vessel was “not certified as a passenger ship for either EU or international voyages, nor were the crew appropriately certified”, and it “should not have been at sea”, the 152-page report says.

    It says that passage planning “for the voyage from Oysterhaven to Kinsale appears to have been influenced by the desire for photograph opportunities” for a cruise event organised for The Gathering, 2013’s year-long festival of the Irish diaspora.

    The planning was “inadequate” for a ship to navigate a course within 300 metres of a lee shore in a force six wind, it says, and the master “should not have altered his passage in an unsafe manner to facilitate promotional activities”.

    All 24 young trainees aged between 15 and 24, along with the master, three permanent crew, a temporary cook and a mentor were successfully rescued by the RNLI Kinsale inshore lifeboat, which transferred them on to the Spirit of Oysterhaven training yacht and RNLI Courtmacsherry all-weather lifeboat.

    The report says that if the initial “mayday” message had been sent out in the “correct format”, the emergency services could have been activated ten minutes earlier, which could have been “critical” to the final outcome, had conditions been more severe.

    It states that “the main cause of this grounding is that the ship was not operated in a safe manner in compliance with the international conventions”.

    The ship, which was en route from Southampton to Cherbourg in France, was leading a parade of sail for The Gathering cruise out of Oysterhaven harbour when its engine failed.

    It struck rocks shortly afterwards at an area known as Prince’s Grave or Bed near the Sovereign Islands, where a four-masted steel barque, the Falls of Garry, sank in 1911.

    The ship sank but was subsequently salvaged and was deemed an “economic write-off”.

    The ship’s master, the Dutch human environment and transport inspectorate and a Dutch training organisation involved in placing trainees have taken issue with aspects of the interim report, issued last year, and this correspondence is published in the final report.

    The Dutch inspectorate told the MCIB that it did not agree with its assertion that such vessels should be certified as SOLAS passenger ships.

    The master says that a nearby sailing skipper offered to issue the “mayday” alert, and describes how he and his crew tried to sail away from rocks after the engine failed.

    He says there was no panic on board, and points out that all trainees and crew mustered on deck with lifejackets on.

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