A 'ghost ship' wrecked on the Co Cork coast could be left marooned on rocks for a year until the ownership of the vessel is legally clarified.
The 80-metre freighter MV Alta, which was driven onto rocks near Ballycotton at the height of Storm Dennis on February 15, is no longer considered to pose a pollution risk to the east Co Cork coast and a special conservation area.
A special helicopter airlift operation on February 26 successfully removed almost 80 barrels of oil and potential pollutants from the 44-year-old ship.
However, such is the severe damage to the freighter's hull that it cannot be refloated unaided.
A source warned the cost involved in refloating the vessel by salvage experts - an operation that would require special tugs and support pontoons - is likely to see any such effort postponed until the ownership of the vessel is legally clarified.
The likely financial impact on government and council finances from the Covid-19 pandemic is also expected to affect the approach now taken to the wreck.
The owner and their insurance company could be liable for the costs involved in such a salvage operation.
Cork County Council, the Commissioner for Wrecks and the Government are now liaising over what will be done with the stranded freighter.
The Government has been contacted by officials acting on behalf of a party who claims to be the legal owner of the vessel.
This contact is understood to be preliminary to an insurance claim being made.
However, it remains unclear who will foot the bill of any removal operation for the MV Alta.
There are mounting fears in Ballycotton that the vessel may simply be abandoned at the site as the cheapest option and left to the fate of future storms.
MV Alta offers minimal salvage value.