The Gaffney family have called on the MCIB asking for an investigation into the case concerning the beam trawler Mary Kate WD-30
CJ Gaffney and his family have written to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board requesting an investigation into all aspects of the case concerning the beam trawler, ‘Mary Kate’ WD-30 which they had bought in 2007 from Germany.
The Gaffney family have been searching for a resolution to the situation which led them to losing their fishing vessel and left them millions of euros in debt.
The Gaffney family had bought the ‘Mary Kate’ in 2007, and before it was registered in Ireland the vessel had been passed seaworthy by the Marine Survey Office (MSO) who had accepted documentation from German authorities who had deemed the vessel stable on their inspections.
In 2009, during two incidents while fishing, Mr Gaffney experienced massive instability in the ‘Mary Kate’ when it nearly capsized. The family hired a private marine surveyor and along with a Dutch Court Surveyor assisted by a private naval architect. They found that there were 20 tonnes of accounted for steel in the hull of the ‘Mary Kate’. The MSO then detained the ‘Mary Kate’ as they now deemed the boat unsafe and unseaworthy.
In 2010, CJ Gaffney met with MSO Chief Surveyor Brian Hogan, Deputy Chief Surveyor Jim Snelgrove and Surveyor in charge Michael Klyne, also Present Minister for Foreign Affairs Dick Roche FF and his aide. It was agreed that the MSO would do a full investigation and report in time for our scheduled meeting in Brussels with DG MARE and if they got a meeting with DG Tron the MSO would accompany them.
In January 2011, the ‘Mary Kate’ was lengthened by 6-metres and refitted. This had been carried out on the advice that it would improve the boat’s stability. The MSO issued a brand-new Stability Book, Fishing Compliance Certificate. She was now declared seaworthy. Her official paperwork was in order in accordance with National and EU legislation, but the Gaffney family could not fish the boat because they needed extra tonnage because of the lengthening.
Unfortunately, the government would not provide the Gaffney family with the required tonnage and attempts to acquire tonnage was thwarted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).
Eventually, unable to fish, the banks foreclosed on the ‘Mary Kate’ and the Gaffney family were forced to sell the boat, leaving them millions in debt.
The EU Commission has advised the DAFM to compensate the Gaffney family from European Maritime and Fisheries Funds (EMFF) but Minister Charlie McConalogue told CJ Gaffney that he was not going to sign-off on any compensation because it would “open the floodgates”.
The Gaffney family were told by Minister McConalogue that their issue was nothing to do with his department and advised them to take the issue up with Eamon Ryan, Minister for Transport, as the Marine Survey Office is under the agency of his department.
In March the Gaffney family were then told by Minister Ryan that he was also washing his hands of the matter as there was no regulations in 2007 to ensure that fishing vessels were stable.
With no national or EU legislation was in place at this time to cover fishing boats under 25-metres in the event of any structural defects, this has left CJ Gaffney and his family in limbo.
In April 2021, the Dutch Safety Board, Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid, which was investigating the capsizing of two cutters the same model of Euro Cutter as the ‘Mary Kate’, issued an interim warning. The board was concerned about the stability of a certain type of cutter/trawler and SWZ|Maritime published the warning.
The oversight by the German authorities in relation to the ‘Mary Kate’ has left a huge question mark over the competency of other vessels coming out of Germany. A vessel which initially passed as seaworthy by the Germans, entered the Irish register, was only eighteen-months later seized for being unseaworthy.
In today’s letter to the MCIB, Mr Gaffney tells the MCIB that an investigation now needs to be open “given that impartial professional evidence confirms the presence of 20 tonnes of unaccounted steel present in the boat since new build and how a boat with such a catastrophic structural defect could have passed any certification process?”
He continues, “In addition, we request the Marine Casualty Investigation Unit investigate the handling of our former beam trawler Mary Kate WD30 by the MSO.”