The oil cargo that was threatening to cause an environmental disaster in the mouth of Belfast Lough was finally removed from tanker the Genmar Companion at the weekend.
Bad weather repeatedly scuppered attempts to remove the oil and the tanker spent Christmas off the Copeland Islands.
Councillor Peter Weir DUP MLA for North Down, welcomed the news which he said had come as “a great relief to all of us”.
“The professionalism of the Coastguard, the NIEA, and the Salvage and Intervention Unit are to be praised in bringing this operation to a successful conclusion. For all of us in North Down, we were all too aware of the major disaster that could have occurred on the shoreline of North Down, and given the environmental disasters that have occurred elsewhere when there has been oil spillages, we must be relieved that we have avoided this disaster.
“This anxiety was clearly increased by the time it took to mount a successful recovery. While we are relieved and thankful, this should not blind us to the key questions of how we got here in the first place, and in the days and weeks ahead, I will be pursuing this matter with the Department."
The operation involved transferring 54,305 tonnes of vacuum gas oil from the vessel Genmar Companion to the BW Seine in Belfast Lough.
The Genmar Companion had been sheltering off the Copeland Islands since reporting a crack on its deck on December 16.
In order for repairs to take place in Belfast Harbour it was necessary to remove the cargo of oil iby ship to ship transfer; due to there being no shore reception facilities in Belfast Harbour for a tanker of this size.
The operation to transfer the vacuum gas oil was delayed several times due to the extreme weather, but was able to commence on Friday, January 6.
Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSREP) Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said: "I am delighted that the ship to ship transfer operation has now been successfully completed.”