High Court Rules Marine Survey Office was not Justified in Detaining Ship

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Posted December 6, 2018

The Marine Survey Office was not justified in issuing a detention order for a ship damaged while it was berthing in Greenore port, Co Louth, the High Court has ruled.

The Circuit Court had previously ruled the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, was not justified in detaining the MV Cielo di Monaco, a Malta-registered bulk carrier owned by D'Amico Societádi Navigazione (DSN).

That court said, on the evidence before it, the vessel was not a clear hazard to safety, health or the environment.

The High Court's Mr Justice Denis McDonald agreed and refused an appeal against that decision by the Marine Survey Office (MSO).

The 180-metre long vessel entered Greenore on September 27, 2015, to discharge cargo. It was piloted in, as pilotage is compulsory in the privately-owned Greenore.

While dredging had been carried out at the port to provide a deep-water berth, it transpired no dredging had occurred in the inner area of the berth where the bulbous bow of the MV Cielo di Monaco berthed, the court heard.

The next morning, the crew notice an ingress of water and it was established there were cracks in the steel plating of the vessel from it having grounded in the lowering tide.

The Master of the vessel notified a number of bodies and organisations about the damage, including the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

The MSO also learned of it and a sea captain inspector on behalf of the MSO boarded the ship with a notice of detention of September 29. The MSO inspector considered there was an immediate and serious threat to the safety of the ship and to the marine environment because of two splits in the hull plating.

Repairs were carried out and completed on October 7 and the detention order was lifted two days later October 9.

A day earlier (October 8), the owners, DSN, had appealed to the Circuit Court claiming the detention order was unnecessary and disproportionate. It also said the MSO failed to ensure the interference with the vessel's movement was kept to a minimum, in particular, the fact the order was not lifted until October 9 caused consequential financial loss to the owners.

After the Circuit Court decision, the MSO appealed to the High Court in relation to specific points of law which DSN opposed.

Mr Justice McDonald, in his judgment, said the nub of the decision of the Circuit Court was that there was no clear hazard to safety health or the environment. There was evidence to support that finding, he said.

He did not find any basis to interfere with the Circuit Court decision and refused the appeal.

Source: Irish Examiner