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Displaying items by tag: Whiddy Island

The families of the 50 victims of the Betelgeuse oil tanker tragedy at Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay have decided to take legal action against the State.

The French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse are applying to the High Court to change the death certificates of those who died to reflect what they claim to be the Irish State’s failure to address multiple unlawful safety failings which, they claim, caused their deaths.

It is forty years since the explosion which blew the tanker apart at the Whiddy oil terminal.

Maritime lawyer Michael Kingston is Vice-President of the Relatives and Friends Association. His father, Tim, was one of those killed. He announced the legal action at the Mother Jones Summer School in Cork, where he said the relatives are also seeking a State apology.

“They were left to die in atrocious circumstances and the State failed in its duty to ensure safe operations and failed to show any compassion, have issued no apology and have ignored the approaches made to them by the Betelgeuse relatives,” he told me.

A public funding appeal has been launched to raise money for the legal action.

Michael Kingston details this and what the relatives want from the Government in this week’s Podcast. I asked him first why the relatives were still so angry over the tragedy forty years ago.

Listen to the podcast (below) and also listen to the powerful letter from Jeanette Ravale (above) – whose husband, Marcel, was killed when the Betelgeuse exploded…She has visited Bantry several times. This letter was read at the 40th-anniversary commemoration in Bantry Cemetery in January by former French Consul in Cork, Francoise Letellier and again at the Mother Jones Summer School.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

An Irish maritime lawyer intends to seek a High Court declaration that the Whiddy island deaths which occurred in the Betelgeuse oil tanker explosion and fire 40-years ago were “unlawful”.

Lawyer Michael Kingston also intends to seek a State apology for the 51 victims’ families, and a commitment to a thorough review of Ireland's maritime and energy regulatory and safety frameworks.

Mr Kingston says an application will be made to have the coroner’s hearing into the deaths reconvened to return a new verdict of unlawful killing.

The apology is being sought not just for the families of the victims, but also the staff and rescue service personnel and volunteers whose lives were put in danger by the explosion, along with the community of Bantry and surrounds in West Cork, he says.

"A total of 42 French, seven Irish men and the English cargo surveyor died on January 8th, 1979"

A total of 42 French, seven Irish men and the English cargo surveyor died on January 8th, 1979 when the French oil tanker, MV Betelgeuse, caught fire and exploded at Gulf Oil’s Whiddy Island oil terminal offshore jetty in Bantry Bay, Co Cork.

Mr Kingston’s father, Tim, died along with colleagues Charlie Brennan, Denis O’Leary, Neilly O’Shea, Jimmy O’Sullivan, Liam Shanahan and David Warner, and Englishman Mike Harris.

Dutch diving supervisor Jaap Pols died during the salvage operation in what was the worst industrial maritime disaster to occur in the Republic of Ireland's history.

Mr Kingston, London-based and from Goleen, Co Cork, confirmed in a speech at the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Shandon, Cork, on Friday that a group called the French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse intend to crowd-fund on social media to finance the action.

“ In the same manner as the recently successful application under European law by the families of the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in Britain, the families are asking that a coroners hearing be reconvened and that the coroner is directed by the High Court to find the deaths ‘unlawful’, thereby establishing the victims’ rights in death correctly,”Mr Kingston said.

The families are also seeking “an appropriate State apology” and a “thorough review of Ireland's maritime and energy regulatory framework”, he said.

This should ensure implementation of “currently outstanding international maritime regulation” which demonstrates that “the State has finally learnt from this appalling tragedy”, Mr Kingston said.

In a report on the Whiddy disaster by a tribunal headed by Mr Justice Declan Costello, three key failures were identified, including the poor condition of the Betelgeuse, for which French company Total SA was deemed responsible.

The French oil company was also held responsible for incorrect unloading procedures and ballasting, while emergency services at Whiddy and on the Beteleguses were found to be inadequate. The judge ruled that both Total SA and Gulf Oil were jointly responsible.

Mr Kingston, who was four years old when his father died, believes the Betelgeuse disaster highlighted a failure by the State to implement regulation.

“The disaster devastated the families involved, the community of Bantry and Co Cork, communities in France and England, and left workers and rescue personnel, who were forced into terrible danger, in trauma,” he said.

“Despite repeated requests for assistance in helping to commemorate those who died ... and repeated requests to carry out a thorough review of Irish maritime regulation, the State leaders have consistently failed to support the families, and have ignored correspondence regarding safety,” he said.

As an example, Ireland had failed to ratify the International Convention, SOLAS 1974 which included mandatory use of inert gas systems to prevent explosions on oil tankers.

Ireland “continues to fail to implement International Maritime Organisation conventions leaving Ireland’s workers and rescue services at unnecessary risk”, he said.

The High Court action will be taken on the basis of Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, Mr Kingston said.

Mr Kingston has represented the International Union of Marine Insurance at the International Maritime Organisation.

He has conducted legal reviews of Lloyd’s of London’s 2011 Drilling in Extreme Environments report following the Deep-Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and their 2013 Removal of Wreck report, following the sinking of Costa Concordia off Tuscany in 2012.

Listen to Tom MacSweeney's Afloat podcast with Michael Kingston here

Published in News Update
Tagged under

#WhiddyIsland - Thirty-five years on from the disaster at the Whiddy Island oil terminal in Bantry Bay, one of those who survived the incident has told The Irish Times how the tragedy still resonates throughout West Cork.

"The joy of Christmas doesn’t exist for me anymore," said then Gulf Oil pumpman Brian McGee, who admits he "can still vividly recall images from that night" in the early hours of 8 January 1979.

Fire broke out on board the berthed Total oil tanker Betelgeuse, causing an explosion that claimed the lives of 50 people - including locals Charlie Brennan, Tim Kingston, Denis O’Leary, Neilly O’Shea, Jimmy O’Sullivan and David Warner.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes
Tagged under

Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020

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