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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Ship split after new explosions
The stern section of the MSC Napoli will be cut up on site

A third round of explosives has split a beached container ship in two off the Devon coast.

Explosions were triggered soon after midday on MSC Napoli, which has been stranded off Branscombe since it was damaged in a storm in January.

The stern of the ship will stay on site and be cut up while the bow section has been towed away for recycling, possibly in mainland Europe.

Two previous explosions on Tuesday and Wednesday had been unsuccessful.

The operation was carried out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Explosives are detonated on the MSC Napoli's starboard side
Toby Stone, head of counter pollution and response at the MCA, said: "We are pleased with the outcome of today's operation, and we now move into the next phase considering options for disposal."

He said it was "good news" that the two halves of the ship had detached cleanly, adding there was no chance of re-floating the stern section.

Robin Middleton, the Secretary of State's representative for Maritime Salvage, said the separation of the Napoli had been a "copybook" operation.

Mr Middleton, who took the decision to ground the Napoli off the Devon coast, said a recycling site would be sought over the coming weeks for the bow section, now about a mile offshore.

The MSC Napoli's hull is split after the third set of explosions
The stern, including the accommodation block, would remain grounded where a contractor would dismantle it and the metal would be recycled.

Contractors could be working on the stern within a month, and it would take about three further months to dismantle.

Mr Middleton said: "Without any doubt whatsoever, it was the right decision to ground the Napoli in Lyme Bay.

"We could have had 3,800 tonnes of oil here, containers, chemicals in the water, we may have had to close access to the Channel.

"I am glad we have achieved this with the lack of damage to the environment we have."

The MSC Napoli had been en route from Antwerp to South Africa when her 26 crew members abandoned ship and were flown to safety.

The ship was refloated last week but the results of a diving survey revealed the hull was severely damaged and it was beached again last week.

Contractors appointed by the vessel's owners have been dealing with oil which has been coming ashore on beaches.

A large boom was in position to catch any oil which may leak from the vessel in her position about half a mile off Sidmouth on east Devon's World Heritage coast.


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