EFFORTS will be made this morning to re-float a giant cargo ship stranded on rocks just off the Connemara coast.
The 120 metre-long Pantanal -- a 7,000-tonne vessel with a crew of 16 -- has been stuck at Costello Bay near Rossaveal Harbour since about 6am yesterday morning after gale-force winds pulled the ship from its anchorage and drove it onto rocks and a large sandbank.
Nobody was injured in the incident and, while there was no immediate danger of pollution, booms were put around the base of the ship yesterday as a precaution. Local divers also inspected the hull for any damage. The crew remained on board throughout yesterday.
The massive steel vessel, the same length as the pitch at Croke Park, is owned by a German-Danish consortium and flies the flag of the Caribbean state of Antigua and Barbuda.
Fitted with giant cranes, it had arrived off the west coast on Wednesday to transport two Aran Islands passenger ferries which had been sold at auction.
The almost-new ferries had been built for Bad Arann Teo (trading as Aran Direct), run by Connemara businessman James Clancy, which went into receivership some months ago.
Mr Clancy had extensive property interests in Ireland and the Middle East, but his business ran into trouble when Anglo Irish Bank initiated proceedings for a loan repayment.
Shipping firm, Harren and Partner of Bremen, which operates the Pantanal, said yesterday that a tugboat from Foynes was requested to attempt to pull it clear at high tide this morning.
Marine Minister, Simon Coveney, who is inspecting the situation at first hand, said that the grounding of the ship was being treated as an international or Priority 1 incident.
"Sometimes instances like this can go from being a difficult management situation to an environmental catastrophe. I don't think that's likely to happen in this case.
"The likely scenario is that the ship will be pulled off at high tide in the morning or sometime over the weekend -- the highest tide being on Sunday.
"If it were to leak into the harbour here, it would cause very serious environmental damage", Mr Coveney added.