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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Salvagers pin hopes on weather
RMS Mulheim
Salvagers are putting their faith in a rig alongside the vessel
Salvage teams say they are confident they can bring in more specialised equipment to bring cargo off a vessel which is aground near Land's End.

They say a rig alongside the RMS Mulheim would mean they could clear the vessel of its 2,200-tonne cargo of waste plastic in days.

However, an air and sea search for cargo from the grounded ship is to be launched, following fears that up to half of the shredded car plastic has escaped into the sea.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has said the search will aim to track down a floating raft of the plastic debris which escaped two days ago.

We have recovered about two sacks of material every day, so we are fairly pleased that it has been so small
Jim McKenna,
Plymouth District Council
The first one-tonne bag of plastic from the ship was removed on Thursday, using a pulley system up the cliffs.

But salvagers say that could take up to 50 days.

They say that if good weather continues, they are confident they can build a rig alongside the vessel and lift the cargo onto barges.

Salvagers' spokesman Robin Middleton said: "Within a few days of it being in place, we'll have that ship cleaned, but it is so weather dependent."

The 1,846-tonne vessel ran on to rocks between Land's End and Sennen on 22 March while en route from Cork to Lubeck, Germany.

Wildlife experts fear the non-biodegradable plastic which has escaped could harm marine life.

And campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is calling for a public inquiry into the handling of the salvage operation.

Vessel removal

Teams of volunteers have recovered only a small amount of the plastic from nearby beaches.

Jim McKenna, chief executive of Penwith District Council, said: "We have recovered about two sacks of material every day, so we are fairly pleased that it has been so small."

The hand-sized lumps of plastic were to have been buried in a landfill site.

Penwith District Council, Cornwall County Council, the Duchy of Cornwall and the National Trust have entered a joint formal request for the 1,846-tonne vessel to be removed.

However, Robin Middleton, the Secretary of State's representative in Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said the damaged Mulheim could break up soon because of recent bad weather.

Salvagers to remove cargo
31 Mar 03  |  England
Weather threatens salvage move
27 Mar 03  |  England
Salvage effort for stricken ship
23 Mar 03  |  England

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