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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 11:33 GMT
Council is to hold Napoli inquiry
Listing Napoli
The Napoli was deliberately beached to stop it breaking up
Devon's county council has confirmed it is to hold a public inquiry into the beaching of a container ship.

The MSC Napoli was grounded a mile off the Lyme Bay beach, near Sidmouth, on 20 January after storm damage during a tow to Portland, Dorset.

The council acknowledged the recovery work of the salvage teams, but added it could have been disastrous for the World Heritage Coast site.

Branscombe beach is opening on Friday after work to clear Napoli debris.

Seaworthy questions

The council said it was starting a preliminary exercise to gather evidence before progressing with the inquiry later in the year.

It said several questions would be raised, including asking if the ship was seaworthy, and asking what decisions were taken that brought the Napoli to its current resting place after first getting into trouble in French waters.

It is also to look at what degree should the sensitivity of the coastline be a factor in determining where a vessel is beached in an emergency situation.

Onlookers at Branscombe beach. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
The beach reopening comes just before the tourism season
In a statement to the South West Regional Assembly, Devon County Council acknowledged the "excellent recovery work" of the salvage teams and onshore contractors, and to the fact that recovery was proceeding well.

But it said it was concerned that the situation could so easily have been different had the weather and sea conditions been worse.

The council said the inquiry would "not be a finger-pointing or blame-apportioning exercise".

Council leader Brian Greenslade said he hoped it would help relevant agencies with future contingency planning to minimise the potential for similar risks.

East Devon District Council and Dorset County Council are supporting the inquiry.

The government has decided that it will not hold its own public inquiry.

Part of Branscombe beach, which was the scene of scavenging after cargo from the stricken ship washed up on it, is re-opening.

It comes just before the start of the area's tourism season.

However, the eastern area of Branscombe beach is staying closed as machinery used by contractors is still there.


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