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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 16:46 GMT
Stranded tanker safe in port
Tugs free MV Willy
The ship was dragged free after 11 days stranded
The petrol tanker that caused an explosion scare for a Cornish village has passed a safety inspection at Falmouth docks.

The MV Willy arrived in the port for repairs after a delicate operation to re-float the ship in Cawsand Bay at the entrance to Plymouth Sound.

The ship was checked on arrival on Saturday and has since been examined by divers, ready to move into a dry dock on Tuesday.

It is not clear whether it can be saved - the owners may decide it is not worth the cost of repair after 21 years at sea.

If repair work goes ahead, it is expected to take several weeks.

Listing ship
The ship listed heavily as it was towed off
The salvage team had a lucky break in finding a dry dock available at Falmouth - avoiding the need for a perilous journey to a more distant port, possibly in France.

Falmouth harbourmaster Mark Sampson said: "It was fairly fortunate, because dry docks tend to be booked up well in advance.

"It could have made life a lot more complicated to have to make a long sea voyage, possibly in adverse conditions."

"She sustained substantial amounts of bottom damage. Nearly all the fuel tanks were breached.

"They were sat on the rocks and badly pulled about. Traders in Kingsand and Cawsand are counting the benefits from 11 days of welcoming sightseers to a "little-known" corner of Cornwall.

Tanker timeline
Tuesday 1 January, 2245 GMT: MV Willy drags anchors and hits rocks. Crew wade ashore. Police set up no-go zone.
Wednesday 2 January, 0515 GMT: Kingsand homes are evacuated amid fears of explosion.
Wednesday 2 January, lunchtime: a safety crew opens holds to clear petrol vapour.
Wednesday 2 January, evening: many villagers go home.
Thursday 3 January, evening: Kingsand 're-opens' as danger fades.
Saturday 5 January: a floating crane loads salvage gear.
Friday 11 January: vessel is re-floated
Saturday: MV Willy towed to Falmouth, for assessment and possible repair in dry dock

But it has not proved such an attraction in Falmouth, where it has spent the weekend alongside Queen's Jetty in a secure docks area.

The ship's holds were being kept filled with compressed air to keep it watertight until dry-docked.

The tanker ran aground on the evening of 1 January while sheltering from a storm - having discharged most of its cargo of fuel at Plymouth's Cattedown dock.

It led to 150 local people being moved out of their homes after fears that vapour-filled tanks could explode.

Members of a team from United Salvage Ltd raced against the tide to clear prepare the ship for re-floating on Friday.

It lifted clear of the rocks at lunchtime, well ahead of high tide at 1600 GMT.

The ship was listing heavily when first re-floated, but was stabilised before making the 35-mile voyage to Falmouth under tow.

A floating crane escorted the vessel, with a spotter plane flying overhead to detect any fuel leaking from the holds.

The BBC's Janine Jansen
"The MV Willy has been stranded on rocks for 11 days"
Kevin Colcomb, Maritime and Coastguard Agency
"I have to be honest, there is a minor threat of pollution"

Click here to go to Devon
See also:

11 Jan 02 | England
Stranded tanker floats free
03 Jan 02 | England
Experts board grounded ship
02 Jan 02 | England
Stranded ship seals off village
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