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BBC Wales' Caroline Evans
"Three crew members were airlifted to safety"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 December, 1999, 16:25 GMT
No damage to beached tanker

Milford Haven graphic The tanker's hull was undamaged


A first survey by divers on an oil tanker which ran aground off west Wales in storms has revealed no major damage to the hull or steering gear.

The 1,500-tonne tanker is now berthed at Pembroke Dock - and three crew lifted off as a precaution at the height of the storm have returned aboard.

The Black Friars came ashore at the tiny village of Marloes near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire after losing its anchor in gale-force winds in the early hours of Friday morning.

Three non-essential members of crew were airlifted to safety by an RAF Sea King rescue helicopter from the vessel which was rolling and rocking on the sandy beach due to the high winds.

Four other members of crew remained on board.

Mayday

The tanker was finally pulled off the sand by the St David's lifeboat in a successful attempt to refloat her at 0430GMT.

She has now been towed into Pembroke Dock.

The tanker lost her anchor and ran aground in what was described as "foul" weather - force six gales, heavy seas and pouring rain.

Three British officers and four Polish ratings were on board the tanker.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it was alerted shortly after midnight by a mayday call from the tanker.

Coastguard, lifeboats and an RAF Sea King helicopter were scrambled for the rescue operation.

'Inadequacies'

Friends of the Earth Cymru spokesman Gordon James said: "On this occasion we were lucky as it was a small empty tanker which was successfully re-floated. It could have been much worse.

"The incident demonstrates the on-going risks of a major oil port operating in an environmentally important area and the need for the highest standards to be implemented.

"The fact that this grounding took place in an area which is regularly used for anchorage by oil tankers suggests that inadequacies still exist."

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See also:
04 Nov 99 |  Wales
Port faces 10m claim for Empress disaster
11 Feb 98 |  UK
Oil disaster impact 'less than expected'
12 Jan 99 |  Sci/Tech
Another Empress before long

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