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Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 19:23 GMT
Scavengers grab what they can
A scavenger with a box
Wine, shoes, carpets, car parts and motorbikes have been taken
Armed with bags and a sense of adventure, hordes of beachcombers have been descending on the sands at Branscombe in Devon.

But this army of scavengers is not searching for shells or beach wood.

Instead, its eager members are hoping to take home some of the richer pickings offered by the stricken cargo ship MSC Napoli.

The 62,000-tonne vessel is grounded about a mile out at sea, and has shed a total of 103 containers.

Forty of those have so far offered beachcombers an array of goods.

Rich cargo

Barrels of wine, shoes, hair care products, beauty cream, steering wheels, exhaust pipes, gearboxes, nappies, foreign language bibles and BMW motorbikes have all been washed up on the pebbled beach.

And, ignoring advice to stay away, hundreds of people have been helping themselves to the thousands of pounds of free goods on offer.

We don't normally have this sort of stuff happening down here - but you know...grab what you can
A scavenger

One told BBC Five Live: "There's plenty...there's a container down there - the more we can take away the better really - it's not really any good to anybody is it?"

Others were celebrating the unusual turn of events.

"We don't normally have this sort of stuff happening down here, but you know...grab what you can," an excited hunter said.

"We've got some engine parts and some BMW engines - and we've all been helping together in unloading them really," another said.

"It's not often you get to see a wreck like this - take some pictures - see what people are around - it's just more of an adventure, more than anything else."

We've been trying to get a BMW bike because a few of them have gone but we've ended up with BMW parts instead - and cat food
Another beachcomber

Early on Monday morning some of the containers could be seen bobbing out to sea, but others were marooned on the beach. Motorbikes and car parts were strewn on the foreshore.

As first light broke, a trail of beachcombers laden with goods - including a steering wheel and a car exhaust - made their way across the sands.

But some of those looking for the most lucrative hauls arrived too late.

"We've been trying to get a BMW bike because a few of them have gone but we've ended up with BMW parts instead - and cat food," one said.

Stretchers made

Some used bags while others constructed improvised stretchers to carry away hauls of shoes, steering wheels and exhaust pipes.

"It has put Branscombe on the map - where it should be - the king of car boot sales," one scavenger said.

Another added: "She's just had a grandson, and we heard there's a lot of nappies here - so we came to get some nappies. "

It does not seem to them to be a crime, to them it is finders keepers
Author Richard Platt

Author Richard Platt, who is behind the website smuggling.co.uk, said the scenes were reminiscent of the days when Branscombe was a notorious landing place for smuggled goods.

He added: "Everybody wants something for nothing. Everybody loves beachcombing, a walk down the beach hoping to find something valuable.

"It does not seem to them to be a crime, to them it is finders keepers."


But the beachcombers have also been offered words of warning.

Coastguard Seamus McCaffrey was trudging the length of the beach advising people they must notify the Receiver of Wreck of their finds.

For the loot to be classed as legal, a special form has to be returned to the Receiver's office in Southampton within 28 days.

"Some people have been coming up to me asking for forms. Generally people have been quite pleasant," he said.

One local woman, who was salvaging carpets for the home she is decorating, said she had taken the advice on board and would be filling in the required form.

"I am going to declare them," said the woman.

She added: "People should be able to be allowed to take what they like. It is clearing up the beach, and it is part of the beach culture."

Members of the public scavenge for beached goods

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