The loose-knit network of environmentally aware watersports enthusiasts, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), have urged their peers to pay attention to the pollution risk and the possibility of colliding with debris when using beaches in Dorset and South Devon.

Although the ship was beached at Branscombe last month and the clean-up operation has removed most of the waterborne wreckage, SAS argues there is still a potential problem for surfers who might come into contact with oil, hazardous chemicals and cargo debris.

The organisation has a lot of hands-on experience of members becoming ill from swallowing untreated water or having adverse reactions to pollutants released into coastal waters either by shipping or sewer outlets.

Many of those who dabble with the sport in the UK would not venture into the cold water at this time of year but more committed surfers make the most of wintry high seas.

“While Branscombe beach is now closed off, it is quite possible that more beaches used for recreational watersport in the area could be impacted upon during the salvage operation over the coming weeks, especially with poor sea conditions a common occurrence at this time of year,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.

“This incident has again highlighted just how vulnerable the coastline is when ships get into trouble and we have already sadly seen the impact the oil is having on local wildlife. But we hope this incident will be dealt with swiftly to prevent a lasting legacy of pollution being left on the regions World Heritage Site acclaimed beaches.

“SAS fully understand the difficulties faced in a salvage operation of this kind and our fully supportive of the salvage response unit’s efforts.

“But it will be important to learn whether this ship was in a seaworthy condition as in so many occasions in the past poor maintenance and inadequate shipping legislation has allowed unsafe ships to go to sea. We wait with interest to see the findings of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.”

Anyone using beaches in the area who sees any signs of oil or debris that might be from the MSC Napoli should contact the Coastguard on 01305 760439.

Sam Bond

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