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Drifting cargo shift could hit French Atlantic Coast by Tuesday

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Drifting cargo shift could hit French Atlantic Coast by Tuesday


French authorities were still scratching their heads on Sunday (January 31) as to how to prevent a cargo ship loaded with timber from crashing into the country’s Atlantic coast.

Salvage team workers have been airlifted near the drifting Modern Express, to try and find a way to tow it from rough waters. But bad weather has made their work very difficult, according to the French Navy.

The Modern Express was transporting 3,600 tonnes of wood from Gabon to France’s northern port of Le Havre, but listed heavily to one side last week in rough seas and has not recovered an upright position, leading to the evacuation of the 22 crew members by helicopter.

The vessel, which has 300 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks, has since been adrift in the Bay of Biscay and was about 116 kilometres off Arcachon Bay near Bordeaux on Sunday.

Maritime expert Jacques Loiseau said he didn’t believe it was possible to straighten the ship at this stage. “It’s very complicated; we can’t take it into a port in its current state, it’s much too big,” he said.

He said a more likely scenario would be to gently bring the ship aground onto a soft sandy beach — avoiding rocks and anything that might wreck it — and then have it dismantled and cleaned up.

The maritime prefecture said there may be a window of opportunity on Monday (February 1) morning to tow the ship.

If that fails, it’s expected to end up by Tuesday night on a sandy beach in the Landes, south of Bordeaux.

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