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Galway’s Harbourmaster Hits Out at Lack of Storm Warning

19th December 2019
Galway's Crisis Management Team at Salthill during last night's storms Galway's Crisis Management Team at Salthill during last night's storms Credit: Twitter/GCC

Galway’s harbourmaster has hit out at the lack of warning for a severe storm which caused flooding in parts of the city and Salthill last night writes Lorna Siggins.

The city’s emergency plan was invoked after southerly winds forecast at 40 to 45 knots hit 73 knots, and there was a sea surge over quays in the docks and in Salthill.

A cargo ship making regular deliveries to the Aran Islands was thrown up on rock armour when it broke one of its moorings. The 39-metre Saoirse na Mara sustained considerable damage during the height of the winds at around 8 pm.

Capt Sheridan said Valentia Coast Guard had been informed last night, and there was no pollution from the ship and no injuries to crew. Efforts would be made to refloat the vessel at high tide this morning, he said.

Capt Sheridan said the city had “only dodged a bullet by a miracle”, but said he was furious at the lack of warning.

“With climate change and sea-level rise, we are only going to have more of these events and we need to be prepared,” he said.

“This inaccuracy of forecasting highlights our lack of ocean literacy and our need to focus on understanding what is actually going on in the ocean,” he said.

“We need to remind ourselves that the planet is 70 per cent water, and the ocean controls so much of our daily lives. Climate change is here and now,” Capt Sheridan emphasised.

The port had hosted an emergency training exercise for staff yesterday afternoon, and so Capt Sheridan said he had been particularly vigilant about weather forecasts.

“That exercise went off well, but at 3 pm it was forecast for 40 to 45-knot winds on Wednesday night. It reached 73 knots and was off the scale.”

The gusts caused widespread damage to trees on routes in and out of the city.

Published in Galway Harbour
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

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