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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 16:15 GMT
Fear for birds near Napoli wreck
A bird being washed
Many birds need to be cleaned of the oil stuck to their feathers
Concern is growing for local wildlife affected by oil following the beaching of the MSC Napoli, as the clean-up goes on of the nearby Devon coast.

Work is continuing to pump 3,500 tonnes of fuel oil from the ship, while some 600 birds are estimated to have died.

An RSPCA centre, where 420 birds had been taken by Wednesday, estimated that only 40-50 could be cleaned and freed.

Police have moved to clear Branscombe beach after crowds scavenged for goods from the ship.

Devon and Cornwall Police have said confusion over the law hampered them, and that lessons will be learned.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reported that they had had reports of 1,000 birds affected by oil, mostly guillemots, and estimated 600 would have died.

The Napoli suffered structural damage during storms last Thursday and was deliberately grounded a mile off Branscombe to stop it breaking up in deep water. Since the grounding 200 tonnes of oil have leaked into the sea.

The procedure to remove the oil from the ship is proceeding slowly, with 28 tonnes an hour being pumped out.

MCA spokesman Mark Clark said: "It is going to be a sticky horrible job."

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

  • The two-and-a-half tonnes of oil that leaked from the vessel on Tuesday has been dispersed with spray from an aircraft.

    Over the last three days scavengers have descended on the beach, taking away goods that included BMW motorbikes, wine, face cream and nappies.

    The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it could be a year before the vessel and its contents were removed.

    Scavengers are no longer being allowed on the beach, with police asking people carrying objects from the ship's cargo to declare it before they leave and fill in the relevant forms, or surrender the property.

    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

    Those failing to do so could be arrested for theft, police said.

    Ebay has already been contacted by police and is withdrawing scavenged items that had gone on sale.

    Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman Alan Mobbs said: "Initially there was some confusion over the legislation. For example, did we have the power to close the beach."

    He said it was quite possible the beach could be closed until Easter while the clean-up work went on.

    Branscombe Parish Council chairman John Bass said the influx of scavengers had scared locals and he would be seeking assurances from police that it would not happen again.

    "I likened it to a plague of locusts coming to a small area and sweeping everything away."

    A platform is being constructed next to the beach so contractors can cut up and remove containers and other cargo.

    Let them keep what they find - they are removing rubbish from the beach!
    Ken Bolton, Manchester

    The cost of the entire clean-up operation will be borne by the ship's owners, the MCA has insisted. The work is being co-ordinated by the MCA, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation and the salvage contractor Smit.

    A full Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation has started, with investigators hoping to board the vessel on Wednesday, subject to changing weather.

    Investigators are likely to look at the effects of repairs conducted after an accident involving the ship in 2001 near Singapore.

    The Napoli, then called the CMA-CGM Normandie, ran aground and was stuck for 60 days on a reef, requiring major repairs at a yard in Vietnam.


    Aerial views of the oil slick

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