MSC Napoli beaching ‘avoided serious oil spill’

The decision to beach the stricken MSC Napoli last year avoided releasing thousands of tonnes of oil along the Devon coastline, an inquiry has heard.

An in-depth report by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been delivered to the chairman of a local inquiry into the incident last January.

The container ship had to be towed to the English coast, beached in Lyme Bay and broken up into pieces after it suffered a “catastrophic hull failure” in the English Channel.

The report said French and British authorities opted to beach it as the weather deteriorated, fearing that the ship would break up in the Channel, releasing the 3,512 tonnes of intermediate fuel oil and 152 tonnes of marine diesel oil it was carrying.

Toby Stone, head of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Counter Pollution Unit, said: “The successful way in which the MSC Napoli was handled demonstrates the effectiveness of the UK’s arrangements for handling incidents at sea and the professionalism of all of those involved.

“We also hope that our submission to the inquiry will set the record straight on several issues, including, or course, the overriding practical reasons for beaching the vessel at Branscombe.”

After the ship was beached, it took six months to remove the fuel oil and containers, before explosives were used to split the MSC Napoli into two sections.

It is estimated that just 302 tonnes of oil were spilt during the salvage operation, and the report said authorities acted swiftly to deal with spillages.

It added: “Timely action taken by Defra and the Environment Agency to monitor water quality at sea and by the beaches in Devon and Dorset was instrumental in providing reassurance to the public and the membership of the Environment Group with respect to impact on nature conservation and fisheries.”

Kate Martin

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