McConalogue rejects call for help from skipper which raised serious safety concerns
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has rejected a call for help from an Irish skipper who bought a beam trawler from the Netherlands which has proven to be dangerously unstable.
As The Sunday Independent reports that Captain CJ Gaffney (49) from a well-known Arklow fishing family suffered substantial losses in purchasing the vessel which had been certified safe by German authorities.
The Gaffney family has five generations of service with the RNLI lifeboat.
Research by legal representatives and naval architect Gaffney has established that at least nine other vessels of similar design in Europe may have safety concerns.
The European Commission, which gave the family a hearing on the matter in 2011, said it was outside its purview as the ship is less than 24 meters in length and falls under the law of member states.
However, he had told the Gaffneys that the Irish authorities could tap into EU funds to help them.
The beam trawler Mary Kate was purchased in the Netherlands by CJ Gaffney of Arklow, Co Wicklow and his father in 2007, borrowing 620,000 euros for the purchase.
The vessel was registered under the German flag and was certified by the Germanischer Lloyd Classification Society.
When CJ Gaffney started fishing the boat in January 2008, he noticed that it was significantly more unstable than his older older boat and said that “a couple of times the boat almost overturned”.
Tests showed that 20 tons of unaccounted steel was in the hull, and the family chose to lengthen it to make it safer.
The family has taken legal action against several German companies and the German Maritime Safety Authority.
However, jurisdiction could not be established.
The Irish Marine Survey Office (MSO) did not allow the boat to initially fish, but issued a stability certificate in 2009 when it was amended.
The Gaffneys ran out of money to purchase an additional license at this point.
A potential sale to Britain was unsuccessful because the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency did not allow its registration – despite Irish certification proving it was seaworthy.
“The banks then sold the Mary Kate in a discount sale, leaving the family with a massive loan of almost $ 2 million, which has still not been repaid,” Gaffney said.
The case was raised at EU level by a number of Irish MPs and has been referred to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions.
It was raised in Dáil by Sinn Féin TD and fisheries spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn and by TD Social Democrat Jennifer Whitmore.
Mr McConalogue said this is a private business matter and security is the responsibility of the Department of Transport.
Ms Whitmore, who attended an online meeting Mr McConalogue hosted with the Gaffneys at the end of this week (Friday, July 16), said she was calling on the Navy Secretary to work with Transport Minister Eamon Ryan on the matter.
“CJ Gaffney did all he could, and he was a whistleblower for security,” Ms. Whitmore said.
“There are obvious regulatory gaps at European level that need to be addressed. “
The German Ship Safety Division, the ship designers and Mr McConalogue declined to comment.