North West Wales

MV Carrier: Salvage operation begins at Llanddulas

Salvage teams have begun the task of removing fuel from the stricken cargo ship which ran aground off north Wales.

Environmental concerns were initially raised after the MV Carrier ran aground at Llanddulas, near Colwyn Bay, on Tuesday.

However, the threat of significant harm to birds in the area is now thought to be low.

Both lanes on the A55 expressway, which runs along the coast, are also expected to be reopened, with a 40mph limit.

The contract to remove the fuel has been awarded to the company PGC Demolition, with the work expected to carry on through Saturday.

A second contract has yet to be awarded to remove the ship from its current location wedged against flood defences.

The area is a conservation zone and there has been concern about the potential impact on sea birds after Tuesday night's accident.

There are three holes on the starboard side of the MV Carrier but the main fuel supply of the vessel, on the port side, is not damaged.

Fred Caygill, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), said: "The priority is to get the fuel out in order to protect the marine environment."

He said he thought any fuel spillage would have "minimal impact" because of the "washing machine" effect of the waves on the diesel oil.

Environment Agency Wales (EAW) said any environmental impact was expected to be "minimal at this stage".

It predicted any more fuel leaking from the vessel would be confined to a small area between Colwyn Bay and Rhyl.

The MCA said there had been no further problems overnight, and efforts were now concentrated on how to deal with the salvage operation.

The sea was calmer on Thursday and salvage operators re-examined the ship.

Sian Williams, of Environment Agency Wales, said there was not as much fuel on board the ship as originally believed - around 24,000 litres rather than 40,000.

"There was a smaller tank on the side that hit the rocks and that contained around 7,000 litres and that did leak during the accident... and into yesterday," she said.

"We've had officers checking the beach all the way from Rhos on Sea to Rhyl yesterday and there was no evidence of any oil or fuel on the beach.

"I think a lot of people hearing the news there was as ship on the rocks were thinking the worst - a Sea Empress-type situation.

"It's important to recognise this is not crude oil, it's not the really heavy type of oil that can affect wildlife."

But Gill Bell, Wales programme manager at the Marine Conservation Society, said even small amounts of oil could have an adverse affect on sea birds.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also said it was worried about the potential impact to a wintering population of sea birds.

Image caption Once the ship's fuel is drained it will be placed in these jerry cans

Seven crew members, all Polish nationals, were dramatically rescued from the ship on Tuesday night and early on Wednesday.

The vessel had used a nearby jetty to load its cargo of limestone.

The Department of Transport's Marine Accident Investigation Branch is investigating.

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