Northern Ireland

Portaferry: Fuel concern as boat sinks in harbour

Sunken boat
Image caption The vessel had been tied up at the quayside in County Down for some time

A boat that sank in Strangford Lough on Friday contained up to 1,000 litres of diesel fuel.

Image caption Strangford Lough is an important marine environment with international protection

The vessel had been tied up at the quayside in Portaferry, County Down, for more than a year.

Strangford Lough is an important marine environment with international protection.

The Exploris Aquarium at Portaferry and a marine laboratory attached to Queen's University nearby have both closed their sea intake as a precaution.

Image caption It is believed that the fuel oil does not present a long-term threat to the environment
Image caption Diesel normally disperses quickly due to wind and wave action

Exploris has put an emergency plan in place following the diesel spill.

The authorities are on site and are discussing plans for refloating and removing the boat.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency said a Water Quality Inspector has been at the scene since Friday morning.

It said: "Wind and tidal action will aid evaporation and dispersion. The situation will be kept under review to determine if any remedial measures are necessary or practicable given the strong currents in the vicinity of Cook Street.

"The NIEA Water Management Unit and DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division are working closely with Ards and North Down Borough Council and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in response to the sinking of this vessel.

"Ards and North Down Borough Council have called in specialist consultants in oil clean-up to manage the response to the incident."

It is understood the diesel spill could have a negative effect on any birds swimming on the water, and also mean any lobsters left in pots on the area by fishermen are now inedible.

Image caption Although the diesel spill will clear up relatively quickly, the salvage operation to move the Regina Caelis could take months.

A council spokesperson said: "As a precaution Exploris has implemented contingency plans to protect the marine life in the centre and will continue to monitor the situation in liaison with the other agencies involved."

Although the diesel spill will clear up relatively quickly, the salvage operation to move the Regina Caelis could take months.

It is understood specialist equipment that is capable of bearing the weight of the boat, which is more than 200 tonnes, will need to be brought in.

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