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Friday 24 January 2020

Boating gang sail off with €1m thefts

Ralph Riegel

MORE than €1m worth of marine equipment has been taken by gangs in a steal-to-order racket over the past six weeks.

Gardai have warned fishermen, sailors and marine sports enthusiasts to exercise maximum caution with valuable engines, navigation and communication equipment.

The warning came as six outboard engines were stolen in west Cork in the space of just 10 days.

Five outboards were stolen on a single evening from the Crookhaven and Goleen areas of west Cork.

Those thefts occurred at the height of west Cork's famous regatta season when hundreds of boats flock to ports including Schull, Baltimore, Crookhaven and Bere Island.

Valuable marine equipment was also stolen in a series of raids in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford and Cork since early July.

Gardai fear one or possibly two gangs are now targeting ports and marinas in a money-spinning steal-to-order racket.

It is feared that the equipment, some individual items of which can be worth close to €50,000, are smuggled overseas within 48 hours of the theft.

Gardai believe most of the stolen goods are destined for the black market in the UK and Europe.

However, there is evidence that some items are being taken as far as Eastern Europe, leading detectives to suspect that one of the gangs has several members from that part of the world.

Raids on valuable outboard engines earlier this summer prompted some owners to undertake laborious safety precautions including removing the units each night and storing them in locked sheds.

That followed a high profile series of raids around Cork and the south-east.

One search and rescue club had a powerful Japanese outboard engine stolen just hours after they had completed a special public safety demonstration on a local river.

Now, gangs have begun to target valuable communications and navigation gear.

Robberies have occurred over the past month at Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and Courtown in Wexford where the fishing fleet has been singled out.

Gardai believe thieves used a boat to access several vessels moored offshore - and removed navigation and communications equipment at night.

In one case, equipment worth close to €10,000 was taken but the damage inflicted to the fishing boat involved is several multiples of that.

In other cases, thieves have taken everything of value they could carry including generators, pumps, echo-sounding gear and even auto-pilot units.

"These robberies all seem to have the same hallmarks and it is possible that just one or two gangs are involved," a garda source said.

"We would urge boat owners to take every possible security precaution."

He added: "They should also report any suspicious activity near piers or harbours to the gardai."

Gardai urged boat owners to clearly mark all their equipment, take photographs of valuable gear, list all registration numbers and store boats in areas which make thefts as difficult as possible.

Detectives stressed that every outboard engine should be securely chained when in storage.

Irish Independent

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