North West Wales

Ship rescue: Rough sea will hamper MV Carrier salvage, say experts

Stricken ship
Image caption The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said there were three holes in the starboard side of the vessel

Salvage workers will struggle to drain fuel from a stricken cargo ship off north Wales until weather conditions improve, say experts.

The MV Carrier, which ran aground at Llanddulas near Colwyn Bay with 40,000 litres of fuel on board, has leaked marine gas oil.

But high winds and rough seas are making a salvage operation difficult.

One salvage expert said it was necessary to stop the vessel moving before it was possible to get the fuel off the ship.

The area is part of the Liverpool Bay special protection area, with its population of sea duck and other birds.

The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) said it was keeping a close eye on the salvage of the 82m (269ft) vessel, which is also carrying a cargo of limestone.

"There have been an estimated 10,000 common scoter [a sea duck] in this area in the last week," said CCW in a statement.

"In addition, this area has some important inter-tidal habitats, with reefs constructed by honeycomb worms being of particular note.

Officers from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are working to remove fuel from the vessel.

The severe conditions are expected to have helped break up the light diesel that leaked out overnight.

The MCA said there were three holes in the starboard side, but the port side where the fuel tank is located is believed to be intact.

Further pollution

Roger Mabbott, director of the UK Spill Association, told BBC Wales: "The normal circumstances that you would expect with a ship running aground is that you would try to tow it off but clearly, in very bad weather, getting a line onto the ship would be very difficult."

He said if the ship was stabilised on the beach, the chances of a fuel spill were minimised because there would be less movement and less chance of the hull being perforated.

Image caption The A55, right next to the ship, was closed for safety reasons

"It's not a very big ship. [But] 40,000 litres of fuel... isn't a vast amount of fuel compared to the 2,500 tonnes you would see on a major container ship," he said.

He said marine gas oil was a heavier version of diesel oil that would be found in industrial use.

"It's still oil and is still going to be an unpleasant and polluting effect on the beach if it does go ashore."

Simon Evans, of salvage company APB Marine, said there was little that anyone could do until conditions improved.

"It's necessary to stop the vessel moving and that will minimise the damage to the vessel," he said.

"Once the wind abates, it's important to get the cargo off and to get the fuel off.

"[Getting] the fuel off obviously comes first but you would replace the fuel with water to keep it heavy, then you would have to do an assessment of the hull."

He said it was then a case of forcing the water out of the tanks by air to make the ship lighter so it could come away from the shore.

The seven Polish crew members were rescued by helicopter in a dramatic overnight operation after the ship hit a rock in rough seas.

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