South Scotland

Safety fears over washed-up timber on east coast beaches

Driftwood on Portobello beach Image copyright @talkporty
Image caption Local people have reported seeing timber washed ashore at Portobello

Police have issued a salvage warning after large quantities of timber began washing up along the eastern coastline of Scotland.

It fell off a cargo vessel during severe weather earlier this month.

The wrecked material has been spotted on beaches between Eyemouth in the Borders and St Andrews in Fife.

But HM Coastguard and Police Scotland are warning people not to try and salvage the timber, amid fears they may put themselves in danger.

They have also been warned that they risk breaking the law.

Ch Insp James Jones said: "Some areas of our coastline can be dangerous, with strong tides, deep water and rocky areas.

"Do not put yourself at risk by trying to recover any of the timber yourself. Contractors who are brought in to clear the timber away have been trained to deal with such situations and have the equipment to do so, please leave it to the professionals."

Some 200 timber bundles were lost by the cargo vessel Frisian Lady on 2 March, according to HM Coastguard.

It was about 110 nautical miles east of Souter Lighthouse, off the South Shields coast, when it was hit by stormy weather.

Image copyright George Mckenzie
Image caption Timber has washed up on beaches as far north as St Andrews

Some of the timber packets were recovered from the sea but the rest are believed to have broken into individual planks.

In the wake of the incident, HM Coastguard said it issued safety broadcasts to warn shipping of the lost cargo - with planks up to 3m (10ft) long.

But now aerial surveillance indicates large concentrations of the timber has washed ashore.

Local councils are monitoring the situation and leading clean-up operations.

Alison Kentuck, Receiver of Wreck for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, warned that people attempting to help themselves to the timber would be breaking the law.

Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, recovery of wreck must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck and failure to do so is a criminal offence.

Ms Kentuck said it was not a case of "finders keepers".

And she added: "Our biggest concern is to make sure that members of the public don't put themselves at risk attempting to retrieve any timber.

"The timber will not be suitable for use as a building material as it's been saturated with salt water."