'Star Wars' boats in licence probe

Simon Brouder

IN a bizarre twist to the hugely successful Star Wars film shoot on the Skelligs last week, some boatmen who ferried equipment to the island are now being investigated to determine if they had the required permits to carry cargo.

While the boatmen who bring tourists to and from the island on a daily basis every summer have licences to carry passengers, it is understood a separate licence is required to transport cargo, such as film equipment and set decorations.

The Irish Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has confirmed that its Marine Survey Office (MSO) is investigating activities in Portmagee after it received reports that cargo was being carried to the island from the mainland onboard 'local vessels'.

The MSO confirmed that "enforcement activities" had been carried out at local mainland harbours and that an MSO surveyor was dispatched to the area on Wednesday evening, the final day of shooting, to "further investigate the matter".

In a statement released by the office late last week, the MSO said that it had checked its records which suggested that no 'local' vessel had been issued with the required Irish Load Line Certification or had been issued with a Passenger Boat Licence with the required approval to carry cargo.

"The result of this visit was that the MSO surveyor was not satisfied that the cargo had been transported to Skellig Michael in accordance with the requirements of the applicable maritime safety legislation," said the MSO statement.

The statement said this was an "important safety issue".

Local boatmen, who were paid €1,000 in compensation for projected loss of earnings during the filming while the island was closed to the public, have declined to comment as they signed strict confidentiality agreements which bar them from discussing any aspect of the film shoot.