Floating hotel plans put on hold
Plans are still in place to introduce anÂ iconic 36m Gloucester paddle wheeler and riverboat hotel to tourism in Northern Ireland.
The MV Oliver Cromwell sank on Friday 26 May 2018, just off the coast of Anglesey, England, while being towed to its new home at Crannagh Marina Complex in Coleraine.
The Mississippi-style steamer ran into difficulties in the Irish sea and sank approximately 12 miles (19km) west of South Stack near Holyhead, Anglesey.
The Crannagh Marina Complex in Coleraine bought the ship from English Holiday Cruises Ltd in January 2018 for Â£245,000 and had planned renaming the vessel and a Â£100k internal refit, to transform it in to a unique floating restaurant and boutique hotel - as part of a Â£500k development project for the marina.
Seamus Carey, owner of Crannagh Marina Complex, which is based outside Coleraine, said: "The MV Oliver Cromwell was first built as a Dutch barge in 1922 and then converted to a riverboat hotel in 1993. It had been moored in Gloucester Docks for the last 25 years and was considered an icon on the River Severn.
"We were really looking forward to conducting a major refurbishment of the vessel and transforming it into a luxurious 15-bedroom static hotel and restaurant on the picturesque River Bann. It was to be Ireland’s first ever floating hotel and a great addition to the north coast’s tourism offering.
“We commissioned two marine surveyors, Sharpness Shipyard and Griffin Towage, and worked closely with the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA), to ensure that all of the necessary approvals, permissions and insurances were in place to relocate the vessel to Northern Ireland."
He said surveys of the tug and the MV Oliver Cromwell were completed week commencing 21 May 2018 and the MCA granted the necessary Load Line Exemption Certificate to permit the vessel to be towed 470 miles.
"We anticipated that the journey would take three days and the vessel was scheduled to arrive in the Crannagh Marina Complex on Saturday 26 May 2018," he added.
"With prevailing fair-weather conditions, the tow commenced on Wednesday 23 May from Sharpness and proceeded for over 200 nautical miles before running into difficulties and ultimately sinking.
“Fortunately, there was no-one on board at the time and no-one was injured. In line with procedure, an investigation has been initiated by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to establish the circumstances and likely causes around the sinking of the vessel.
"As there was no fuel or oils in the vessel therefore there is no risk of any sea pollution.
“We are naturally extremely disappointed and believe that this is a major blow for the tourism offering on the north coast. The Crannagh Marina Complex has invested significant time and resources into this exciting new venture, which would have created 20 full-time and 15 part-time jobs. However, despite this unfortunate setback, we are more determined than ever and are already in the process of reviewing alternative options for a replacement boat. We hope to have this secured by the end of the summer and in operation before 2019.”