Investigation begins after paddle steamer sinks

RNLI/Jay Garden

The owners of the paddle steamer which sank off the west coast of Anglesey say they plan to buy a replacement boat.

An investigation is underway into why the MV Oliver Cromwell sank twelve miles off South Stack on Friday afternoon, while being towed to Northern Ireland.

The 1920s Mississippi-style riverboat was brought in January by the Crannagh Marina Complex in Coleraine. They had planned to rename and revive the vessel as a 15-bedroom floating hotel and restaurant moored on the River Bann.

The steamer was previously used as a hotel along the River Severn – but for the past five years, it was moored in Gloucester, where it recently underwent renovations.

Geograph (David Dixon)

Seamus Carey, the owner of Crannagh Marina, said their plans for the boat would have supported a total of 35 jobs and described as the sinking as a ”major blow for the tourism offering on the north coast” of Northern Ireland.

He said: ”We commissioned two marine surveyors, Sharpness Shipyard and Griffin Towage, and worked closely with the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA), to ensure that all of the necessary approvals, permissions and insurances were in place to relocate the vessel to Northern Ireland.”

”Surveys of the tug and the MV Oliver Cromwell were completed, week commencing May 21 2018, and the MCA granted the necessary Load Line Exemption Certificate to permit the vessel to be towed 470 miles.”

”We anticipated that the journey would take three days and the vessel was scheduled to arrive in the Crannagh Marina Complex on Saturday.”

The Oliver Cromwell left Sharpness Docks in Gloucester on Wednesday but ran into trouble on Friday afternoon. Both Holyhead coastguards and the RNLI all weather lifeboat from Holyhead were called out, but they decided it was too dangerous to put any crew members on board.

Within two and a half hours of the first callout, the 36 metre vessel had sunk. No one was injured and there was no pollution because there was no fuel or oils.

Mr Casey added: ”We are naturally extremely disappointed…despite this unfortunate setback, we are more determined than ever and are already in the process of reviewing alternative options for a replacement boat. We hope to have this secured by the end of the summer and in operation before 2019.”

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is investigating the incident to establish the circumstances and possible causes of the sinking.

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Eich Gorsaf, Eich Llais / Your Station, Your Voice