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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 20:29 GMT
Crane barges sail to Napoli's aid
Listing Napoli
There are 2,394 containers still on board the Napoli
Two specialist crane barges are sailing from the Netherlands to join the operation to salvage the cargo of beached container ship MSC Napoli.

They will start lifting the remaining 2,394 containers off the ship, grounded off Sidmouth, east Devon, on Saturday.

A team of 20 is working round the clock to pump oil from the ship. The 200 tonnes which had leaked into the sea has now been treated.

Managers of the vessel said they were making "rapid progress".

So far, one third of the fuel has been pumped from the Napoli into another tanker.

A sheen of leaked fuel, which had been several kilometres long and 30 metres wide, had also been treated with dispersant.

But two of the ship's fuel tanks remain under water and it could take another week for all the fuel to be pumped to a second vessel, officials say.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it could take five months to remove the ship's remaining containers.

Lost containers

The 62,000-tonne MSC Napoli, which was holed in storms on 18 January, was deliberately run aground following "serious structural failure".

Hundreds of scavengers descended on the beach at Branscombe after 50 of the ship's containers washed ashore.

Beachcombers took away goods including BMW motorbikes, wine, face cream and nappies.

The MCA warned the public not to touch any other containers which may drift ashore.

Graphic: Hogging
Maritime experts believe structural damage to the Napoli caused it to start 'hogging'
The weakened hull causes a ship's bow and stern to sag
The effect is made worse by rough seas

Senior coastguard Derek Smith said the Receiver of Wreck was now requiring salvage to be surrendered on the spot.

He said: "We do not want people to break containers open - they will make a mess and they will not be allowed to take anything away from the beach.

"If they fail to comply with the instructions of the receiver they could be arrested by the police."

The ship's managers said 103 of its containers were lost from the vessel during the storms, although 70 had now been accounted for.

The remaining 33 were being hunted with specialist sonar equipment.

Car production affected

The ship had been meant to unload almost half of the containers at South African ports, said a manager for the MSC shipping line.

Volkswagen South Africa said it was cutting back on production after losing 130 containers of car parts on the ship.

Dozens of oak barrels on their way to South African wineries were in the beached containers, said Dalene Steyn, European market manager of Wines of South Africa.

The loss could disrupt production of some top quality wines, Mr Steyn said.

South African steel maker Columbus Stainless said 160 tonnes of nickel was on the ship, while BMW South Africa said it had 39 motorbikes and back-up vehicle parts on board.

Bird fears

There are still fears thousands of seabirds could have been affected by the leaked oil.

About 1,000 birds have been rescued since the ship was grounded.

The RSPB said was difficult to determine exactly how many birds had been caught in the slick.

"For every oiled bird ashore, there could be up to 10 times that number at sea," said spokeswoman Sophie Atherton.

The Marine Conservation Society said it was satisfied that everything was being done to clear up after the Napoli.

A decision will be made over whether to re-float the ship after all the oil and containers have been removed.

Map: Devon coastline, site of wreck of MSC Napoli

Graphic: Side view of MSC Napoli
  • Identified fuel tank contents given by MCA on 23 January

    Scenes from the clean-up on the beach and at sea

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