Around 60 percent of the fuel oil aboard a damaged container ship grounded
off a World Heritage Site coast has been removed, officials said.
The 62,000 ton MSC Napoli
, listing a mile off Sidmouth, east Devon, was carrying 3,500 tons of fuel oil when she was grounded there the weekend before last.
By yesterday 2,105 tons of fuel had been removed, and pumping was continuing round the clock, said Zodiac Maritime Agencies (ZMA) of London.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) senior coastguard Derek Smith said the removal of the oil was the salvage operation's top priority.
The decision to ground the Napoli was made amid fears she could go down under tow to Portland, Dorset, following a Channel storm in which her 26 crew were rescued. The Napoli was carrying 2,318 containers, of which 103 went overboard, said ZMA.
The beaching of around 50 containers at Branscombe, east Devon, following the grounding sparked a two-day looting frenzy.
The operation to unload the containers
by crane-barge was continuing amid fears that favourable weather conditions could change over the weekend.
Smith said the unloading operation was concentrating on the most vulnerable containers at the stern of the vessel to reduce the strain on the hull, and the possibility of the ship breaking up.
The planned unloading would also reduce the risk of further containers going over the side.
A total of 57 containers have now been accounted for, and a vessel with sidescan sonar continues to search for the outstanding containers.
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch inquiry is to be held into a collision between a landing barge helping with the Branscombe beach clean-up and a fishing boat.