Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Wood cargo makes eight-mile slick


A cargo of 1,500 tonnes of timber is floating in the sea off the coast of East Sussex

Coastguards are monitoring hundreds of tonnes of timber that fell from a cargo ship in the English Channel.

The 1,500-tonne load, which was lost in rough seas off the East Sussex coast on Monday morning, could reach the Kent shore in the next two days.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is monitoring the wood, said it was now spread across eight miles (13km).

The main bulk of it is 12 miles (19km) south of Rye, East Sussex, he added.

The spokesman said the wood, made up of sawn timber that had been stored in bundles, "is currently not closing on the land as yet".

Could 'miss land'

"However, taking into account the prevailing weather conditions it may land ashore on the East Sussex or Kent coastline over the next few days."

He said the timber may also miss the land altogether and carry on into the Dover Strait.

The MCA previously said they expected it to wash ashore in Dungeness on Wednesday or Dymchurch on Thursday, depending on the weather, but would continue to assess tidal patterns and the weather.

The 137m (450ft) vessel Sinegorsk, which has a 25-strong crew, was heading to Alexandria in Egypt from Oskarshamn in Sweden when the sawn timber was lost from the deck 14 miles (23km) off Newhaven.

It was listing 15 degrees to one side when it lost the wood in rough seas, but this was reduced to between five and 10 degrees after members of the 25-strong crew took ballast water into its starboard side to even it out.

Coastguard tug Anglian Earl remained near the scene throughout the night to monitor the wood's movement and warn other ships to keep their distance.

'Stored in bundles'

The vessel was escorted to Southampton were it was anchored while damage to the ship was assessed and the remaining cargo secured.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is to investigate how the ship came to lose the timber.

The vessel was heading to Egypt from Sweden

A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the wood, made up of sawn timber that had been stored in bundles on the vessel, had stayed together in one block and initially floated around 10 miles up the coast in an eastwards direction after being dropped.

She said the receiver of wreck had been kept informed of the current situation in case the timber washed ashore.

The MCA said the Sinegorsk's insurers were arranging contractors to recover any timber washed ashore and were liaising with local authorities that might be affected.

In January last year more than 2,000 tonnes of timber washed up along the Sussex coast after the Greek-registered Ice Prince sank about 26 miles south of Dorset.

A week-long arts festival to commemorate the Ice Prince incident began in Worthing on Monday.

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