Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Ship loses timber in rough seas

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

A Russian-registered cargo ship has lost 1,500 tonnes of timber in rough seas off the Sussex coast.

It happened in a major English Channel shipping lane 14 miles off Newhaven, East Sussex, at 0815 GMT.

The vessel was escorted to the Solent where it has been anchored, to allow the damage to be assessed and the remaining cargo to be secured.

A spokeswoman said the wood could be heading towards Dungeness in Kent, not the Sussex coast as previously thought.

Aerial surveillance

She said: "We thought at first it was heading towards Brighton and Hastings to arrive there later today, but now it's looking to go round Dungeness.

"It may actually avoid the coastline entirely and go on up through the Dover Strait."

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.

An aerial surveillance aircraft has been sent to survey the debris and to see whether the wood remains in secure bundles.

Dover Coastguard has alerted other vessels in the area about the risk of seaborne debris.

Sinegorsk
The vessel was heading to Egypt from Sweden

The spokesperson added: "The receiver of wreck has also been kept informed of the sawn timber and its likely impact on the shoreline."

Local authorities, police and the Environment Agency met in Brighton earlier to discuss contingencies if the wood was washed ashore.

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said its priority was "public safety and the swift removal of any wood from the coast".

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.

Marine investigation

Fred Caygill of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the Sinegorsk lost its load as it came in to the south west lane of the Dover straits, approaching Newhaven.

He said the Marine Accident Investigation Branch would be investigating how the ship came to lose the timber but added that the rough seas were likely to have been a factor.

"We can't say that definitely caused it but generally weather has an effect," he said.

He said the wood was currently "a long way off shore" but added that if it did drift towards land it could lead to a "similar" situation as the Ice Prince.

A stained glass panel to commemorate the Ice Prince incident was being unveiled on Worthing Pier at noon as the start of the week-long Ice Prince Arts Festival.



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SEE ALSO
Beach shut as crane clears wood
29 Feb 08 |  Sussex
In pictures: Shipwreck timber
21 Jan 08 |  In Pictures

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