Ards and North Down Borough Councillor Joe Boyle has welcomed the progress that the Council is making towards initiating the salvaging of the 120-feet Regina Caelis, a 1930’s schooner that had been berthed in Portaferry for a prolonged period of time and eventually sank off the Cook Street Jetty on the 27 January.
The Regina Caelis was originally a fishing vessel built in the Faroe Islands in the Thirties and later converted to a schooner type vessel and owned by two Swiss musicians who used the vessel for recreational breaks. It has been moored in the north of Scotland for many years and found its way in a poor state down the west coast and over to Carrickfergus harbour and latterly to Donaghadee where is finally made it to Portaferry. The HM Coastguard and Marine and Safety Agency were involved in the discussion along with the Council to find and answers to disposing of the sunken vessel before it became a navigational and environmental hazzard.
Cllr Boyle said: “This has been a lengthy process for the Council and its officers and the necessary process required has been at times frustrating in trying to progress with the salvaging of the vessel.
“There have been many discussions over many months with many parties aligned to the stricken Regina Caelis. It has been extremely important that all aspects were explored involving the salvaging of this vessel. The Council are mindfully aware that they are ultimately responsible for their actions and decisions to their rate-payers and that processes applied and implemented are in accordance with good value and good practise.
“I would place on record my appreciation to all Council Officers involved for their efforts and patience for what I believe will soon be the final chapter involving the salvaging and removal of the Regina Caelis from the Portaferry shoreline and Strangford Lough. With many Sailing events taking place in the locality all efforts will be made to have this operation completed as a matter of urgency.
“I would place on record my appreciation and that of the Council’s Officers to the Portaferry Community, those residents who live close by, those involved with sailing activities along with the regular users of this facility for their understanding and co-operation through the entire process.”
The Regina Caelis sank while being tethered to the moorings at the Cooke Street jetty and local boat owners and fishermen have not been able to use the lough side of the harbour since the vessel was moored there. The vessel had had issues with the incursion of water but eventually it was forced to the bottom of the lough with its masts still visible lying at an angle of 45 degrees.
A Bangor-based salvage company will now take the vessel ashore and break it up.