September 18, 2008

Shock Move By Napoli Salvage Team to Delay Work Until Next Spring


Work to salvage what is left of the MSC Napoli will be postponed until next year because of the risk posed by winter weather, it has emerged.

The stern of the ill-fated container ship was due to have been removed from the Branscombe coastline next month.

But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has now revealed that work has been suspended until spring.

The decision to leave the remains of the stern, just below the water surface in Lyme Bay, means its eventual removal will have taken more than two years.

Hugh Shaw, representing the Secretary of State for Marine Salvage and Intervention, took the decision following talks with environmentalists and salvors.

"The decision 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," he said.

"The conditions under which salvors are operating are now becoming increasingly treacherous. 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.

"To date, 2,800 tonnes of the aft section have been removed. However, the remaining section is heavily constructed and proving difficult to dismantle."

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

"My goal continues to be the removal of as much of the remaining section as is possible, balanced against the environmental sensitivities of the Lyme Bay area," Mr Shaw added.

The Echo revealed this week that much of the bow section of the Napoli has been cut into pieces ready for recycling.

A 500-metre exclusion zone remains in place around the ship and navigational marks deployed around the wreck. Surveillance flights will continue to patrol the area on a regular basis.

Branscombe residents said they are disappointed by the delay.

Many fear the local tourism industry will suffer for another year and fear salvage work will continue beyond next Easter, the start of the next holiday season.

Barbara Farquharson, of the Branscombe Project, which highlighted the impact of the Napoli on local lives, said: "I am shocked at the news.

"I suppose we have just got to shrug our shoulders and accept the delay.

"I'm sure it will be mentioned at the inquiry by the county council, which starts on October 13."

Scott Wain, of the Mason's Arms pub said visitors still ask after the Napoli. "We were told it would disappear at the end of October," he said.

Graham Liverton, East Devon District Council's environment portfolio holder said he could understand why people are dismayed, but stressed the delay is on safety grounds.

"They have to be on the safe side," he said. "We can't have divers risking their lives on the wreck in bad weather.

"We naturally want to see the Napoli go but the suspension of the work is a precaution.

"Throughout the winter we have been told the beach at Branscombe will be kept clean."

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