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Tanker with big oil cargo diverted to Belfast after cracks found on deck

A HUGE oil tanker was diverted to Belfast from the northwest coast last night after cracks were discovered on its deck.

The 'Genmar Companion', carrying more than 55,000 tonnes of gas oil, was en route from Rotterdam to New York when Dutch maritime inspectors discovered the cracks.

But the 228-metre 72,000-tonne tanker was deemed to be seaworthy and continued on its journey from Holland.

However, the Irish Coast Guard said the ship's captain had concerns about the cracks and radioed Malin Head Coast Guard around 9am yesterday for assistance as he anchored 40 nautical miles off Malin Head, with 23 crew on board.

The captain was also concerned about sea conditions that were expected to worsen overnight.

An Air Corps plane was sent to monitor developments while the naval vessel LE Niamh went to accompany the ship towards the deep-sea berth at Belfast port.

The British authorities have given permission for the tanker to be taken to Belfast for emergency repairs. It is thought the cracks may have been caused by severe weather but there is no danger to marine life.

"Surveyors and the Coast Guard will check the cracks in the morning and then a decision will be made either to repair it or discharge the cargo," said Malin Head Coast Guard.

Spokesman Denis Maloney added: "There are no leaks on the vessel.''

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