The incident in an estuary will take place in the Shannon Estuary, near Scattery Island, and will be organised by IRCG, INS, SFPC, SEA-PT, UL-MMRC and Clare County Council, with the assistance of other agencies.



At 22:50 on 15 April, the 90,000 tonne container ship “Marée Noire”, fully laden, reports that she has suffered hull damage during a strong southwesterly storm and heavy seas, some 40 nm west of Kerry Head. A section of bow plating had carried away exposing her forward ballast tank on the port side, well below the waterline.


This hole was close to the forward bulkhead of No 1 cargo hold, and there was a danger that the fracture could spread beyond the bulkhead with disastrous results. 

The ship’s master considers seeking shelter in Bantry Bay, but because of her position and the wind and sea direction, decides instead to request permission to enter the Shannon Estuary, a recognized harbour of refuge.

The Irish Coast Guard, Shannon Foynes Port Company, and Clare and Kerry County Councils are notified. At 07:00 on 16 April the ship is directed to anchoring position H, southwest of Scattery Island, where Beal Point might provide some shelter from the south-west.

However, having passed Kerry Head and while proceeding to the anchorage, the ship’s steering fails, and she goes aground on Five Fathoms Rock, south-west of Corlis Point and Querrin Creek, and due west of Scattery Island.


On a falling tide the ship begins to list quite heavily, and a number of containers (deck cargo) are lost over the side. Heavy fuel oil also begins to leak from one of the ship’s bunker tanks.

A Coast Guard helicopter, which had been tasked to the scene, airlifts all personnel from the ship. 

The Shannon Estuary Oil Pollution Response Plan and the HNS Response Plan are activated. The Shannon Estuary oil spill tracking model, and the associated sensitivity and vulnerability atlas are used to predict where oil is most likely to come ashore, and to obtain information about areas where the coastline must be protected, what measures can be taken, and where access to the shore is possible.

At 06:15 on the 17th of April, deployment of UAV’s (unmanned robotic aircraft) from a location on the Shannon estuary will assess the situation and location of the stricken vessel and will provide live high-definition video feed back to a command centre (Moneypoint Powerstation). The second role of the UAV’s will be complete a survey moving oil slicks, which will be used to update prediction models. 

Large patches of fuel oil begin to come ashore between Corlis Point and Querrin Point, and also the coast east of Querrin Point, and it is essential that this shoreline contamination should be cleaned up before a change of wind could re-mobilise it and cause pollution of other areas of coast within the estuary.

Furthermore, it is important that oil should not be permitted to enter Querrin Creek and other areas of wildlife within the Estuary. 

Limerick University’s ROV Latis is deployed to investigate the damage to the ship’s hull (including the damage suffered at sea as well as the damage caused by her contact with Five Fathoms Rock), and to identify the source(s) of escaping fuel oil. Poor underwater visibility, strong currents and the presence of containers at unknown and uncertain locations on the sea bed make manned diving too dangerous.


The Irish Navy vessel LE Orla arrives on scene in an effort to help with seaborne coordination and an exclusion zone around the stricken vessel is established.

A faxed copy of the ship’s manifest shows that some containers carry dangerous chemicals (to be identified later), and it is important that the locations of these containers are known; especially if they have been washed overboard when the ship went aground, and may be a danger to navigation in the estuary.

Small unmanned robotic aircraft (UAVs), launched and controlled from a temporary command center on the coast near Querrin Pier, will assist the ROV Latis in the search.  Other vessels such as AUV with sidescan sonar will assist in the search operation.

Early on the 18th, the Shannon search and rescue helicopter will deploy underslung load boom equipment onto the deck of the Granuaile. The Granuaile in co-ordination with the Celtic Rebel will deploy large boom equipment in an effort to sustain the oil into a collection area close to Querrin strand.  Shoreline response crews will begin cleanup operations on Querrin strand under the direction of Clare county council.


As the weather moderates, preparations are made to pump out the remaining fuel oil, and plans are made to salvage the ship and her cargo.