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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 00:36 GMT
Hope for Napoli salvage operation
A vessel carrying two large cranes moves closer towards the grounded cargo ship MSC Napoli
The salvage operation could take about five months
It is hoped an operation to unload more than 2,000 containers from the grounded cargo ship Napoli will begin on Monday.

Two large cranes were being moved into position off the Devon coast to start removing items from the stricken ship.

However, the operation failed to go ahead on Sunday after a mooring cable snapped on a barge carrying a crane.

Scavengers had previously converged on the beach to loot containers washed up after the storm-damaged vessel was deliberately run aground.

Risking life

The cable will have to be fixed before the operation can go ahead and a question mark remains over whether any containers will be removed on Monday.

A team of about 20 salvage operators will be involved, some of them divers, who will go into the ship which has been flooded with water and oil.

Their lives are more valuable than the cargo
Mark Clark
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

The divers will be putting their lives at risk when they move around the precariously positioned containers to find the best ways of getting them off.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) spokesman Fred Caygill said there were no guarantees that the operation would get under way on Monday.

Dangerous work

His colleague Mark Clark added: "They have had an issue rigging. They have to replace one of the mooring wires."

Mr Clark said they would have to take the "greatest of care" with such a dangerous work area.

"The vessel is at an acute angle with crushed containers and spilling goods. People have to get on those containers and secure heavy chains so it's a very dangerous job," he said.

"Their lives are more valuable than the cargo."

Priority order

The salvage operation could take about five months as the team are working at a protected World Heritage Site.

The two barge cranes to be used to salvage the remaining containers have sailed from the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

The largest one will remove the 2,291 containers - laden with everything from BMW motorbikes to nappies - in priority order.

The smaller crane will then transfer them to a barge which will take them to Portland port in batches of up to 90 at a time.

Structural failure

The MCA has warned opportunists they face arrest if they take goods that wash up ashore while the salvage operation is under way.

At a public meeting for 300 Branscombe villagers on Saturday some locals complained about the way the situation has been handled, however the police have defended their actions.

About 1,000 birds caught up in oil leaked from the ship have been collected, but the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the final total could be as many as 10,000.

French officials are checking to see if oil washed up on beaches in Brittany came from the ship.

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

Graphic: Side view of MSC Napoli
The Napoli's containers will be unloaded from the stern first by crane barge Big Foot
Map showing route of recovery

A second crane on Big Foot will then transfer containers to shuttle barge Boa Barge 21

Shuttle barge will then transfer containers to Portland Harbour, where they will be offloaded

Lightering vessel Forth Fisher is positioned on the other side of the ship pumping off its remaining fuel oil

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

Key fuel tanks and total contents identified by Marine Coastguard Agency on 23 January. Oil is being pumped off at a rate of approx. 30 tonnes per hour

The scene at the salvage operation in Devon


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