AN ORGANISED gang of thieves have been targeting Dublin harbours to steal yacht engines.
Gardai are warning boat owners to take extra precautions after three engines were stolen in a well planned operation.
It is understood that the gang are selling them overseas.
Three men in a dinghy boat were seen acting suspiciously around Skerries harbour on May 31 and boat owners realised the engines were gone the next morning.
Gardai have launched an investigation into the robbery, which is part of a trend occurring in harbours like Malahide, Carlingford and along the Shannon in recent years, according to locals.
Declan Higgins, one of the boat owners whose €1,000 outboard engine was stolen, said his boat Tully Too was impossible to access without a boat and therefore the robbery was planned. "It's about a quarter of a mile out to sea. You can't go out to it unless you have a boat. And apparently three guys in a dinghy were going around from boat to boat.
"In all the years it's been there, there has never been an issue with it. Most of the bigger boats are way out and if you were to swim, you wouldn't even get to them."
Donal Lynam, manager of the Skerries Sailing Club said it has been searching for the witnesses ever since the robbery.
"There have been engines taken in the past, but the feeling this time is that [the theft] was organised.
"All of the boats were out on swing moorings, so the thieves obviously came prepared and they had to plan it," he said.
"They even stacked stuff on one of the boat's stern and it seemed that they'd hoped to come back for it."
He added: "The people in the visiting boat mentioned it to one of the fishermen as they were leaving the next morning, and we've been trying to contact the owners of that cruise ever since."
No one has been arrested to date and the investigation is ongoing, according to a garda spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Donal said no amount of security on his boat would have prevented the well prepared thieves from taking the engines.
"If the engine is chained down you just break the chain and lock and take it away. It's like having a handbag in the car. And if you lock the boat, they'll get it anyway."
One local source said: "It is understood that the people involved in stealing the outboard engines are shipping them overseas to sell. It has happened in a lot of harbours. It's something of an epidemic.
"People are being warned not to be complacent just because their vessel is in a quiet harbour. They should up their security measures if necessary."