Page last updated at 19:55 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 20:55 UK

MSC Napoli's salvage is suspended


The operation has already cost millions of pounds

The operation to salvage the remains of a stricken container ship off the Devon coast has been suspended for the winter because of seasonal storms.

Work will resume on recovering what is left of the stern section of the MSC Napoli off Sidmouth, next spring.

The 62,000-tonne container ship was deliberately grounded in January 2007 after her hull was damaged in a storm.

The decision to suspend work was taken by the Secretary of State's Representative, Hugh Shaw.

The engine itself weighs approximately 1,400 tonnes
Hugh Shaw

Mr Shaw said: "The decision to suspend salvage operations for the MSC Napoli was necessary to lessen the risks that the onset of harsher autumnal weather would have presented to the safety of the salvors involved, and the local environment.

"During the initial incident no lives were lost, and my aim is to lessen the risks to anyone involved in the operation during this final phase."

Mr Shaw said 2,800 tonnes of the aft section had been removed, but the remaining section was proving difficult to dismantle.

"The engine itself weighs approximately 1,400 tonnes and partially remains in situ," he said.

An estimated 3,000 tonnes of silt and clay is trapped inside the ship, adding substantial weight to the structure.

MSC Napoli: Pic Roger Sharp
Fifty of the ship's containers were washed ashore at Branscombe

A temporary exclusion zone will remain in place, with navigational marks deployed around the wreck.

Counter pollution measures, including personnel and equipment, will also remain in place.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency aerial patrols of the site will continue.

The Napoli was en-route from Antwerp to South Africa, with 2,400 containers on board, when its hull was cracked during a storm off the Lizard.

Its 26-strong crew were airlifted to safety by Royal Navy helicopters.

When 50 of its containers washed ashore at Branscombe, thousands of scavengers flocked to the beach.

Public hearings

Explosives were later used to split the Napoli's hull in two for disposal.

The bow section was towed to the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast to go for scrap, while the ship's 13.5 tonne anchor was put on display in Branscombe to mark the dramatic events.

The estimated cost of the salvage operation is 50m.

Devon County Council will hold public hearings at County Hall in Exeter from 4 November as part of its local inquiry into the disaster.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has blamed the ship's "flawed" design.

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