North West Wales

MV Carrier: Salvage operation continues at Llanddulas

The grounded ship, close to the main A55 coast road - pictured on Thursday
Image caption The grounded ship, close to the main A55 coast road

Salvage experts have removed more than half of the 24,000 litres of fuel from a stricken cargo ship off the north Wales coast.

The fuel can only be removed at low tide from the MV Carrier which ran aground at Llanddulas, near Colwyn Bay, on Tuesday evening.

Experts will begin an operation to move the vessel once the fuel is removed.

The ship's owners said the aim is to complete the pumping operation during the holiday weekend.

So far, about 14,000 litres have been removed by pumping the fuel into giant containers on land.

German shipping firm Reederei Erwin Strahlmann, which owns and manages the vessel, has declared it a "total constructive loss", adding that tenders had been invited to undertake a wreck removal.

The company said that contractors had been appointed to work "around the clock" to remove the fuel.

Image caption Once the ship's fuel is drained it is placed in containers

"These things are weather dependent," Mike Lacey, secretary general for the International Salvage Union, told BBC Radio Wales.

"If the weather is fine it should not present any serious problems."

He said once the fuel had been removed a salvage operation would begin to refloat the vessel.

"If the weather remains good then this should go ahead without too many problems," he said.

Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard from North Wales Police said members of the public are being asked to stay well away from the scene while the fuel removal operation is in place.

Specialist vehicles and equipment were brought to the scene via the coastal cycle path.

Users of fishing vessels, water bikes and other boats are asked to stay away from the area.

A 100-metre exclusion zone around the vessel has also been put in place. Police said anyone who breaches the exclusion zone would be committing an offence.

The operation got under way to remove fuel from the vessel on Thursday.

A "small quantity" of oil which was in use at the time leaked out of the 82-metre long vessel but the impact of the leak is expected to be "minimal", Environment Agency Wales said.

The salvage company PGC Demolition was given the task of removing the fuel.

It followed environmental concerns after a small amount of oil leaked from the vessel when the MV Carrier's starboard side was punctured three times.

Fuel salvage 'priority'

However, detailed inspections have revealed that the main fuel supply for the ship has not been 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.

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

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.

"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," she said.

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

Seven crew members, all Polish nationals, were saved from the ship on Tuesday night and early on Wednesday by two helicopters in a rescue effort which was made difficult by severe weather conditions.

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

A Department of Transport's Marine Accident Investigation Branch investigation into what caused the incident is still ongoing.

Traffic delays

The events also led to serious problems for motorists using the A55 expressway.

Initially, the dual carriageway was completely closed on Tuesday and Wednesday because of fears over spilling fuel from the cargo ship.

It led to long tailbacks as drivers were forced to divert around the area.

However, North Wales Police said a decision was taken on Thursday to reopen the road in both directions, but to impose a 40mph speed limit.

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