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Shipping: MSC "Napoli"

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

This Statement is to update the House on the progress of the salvage operation for the MSC “Napoli”. Since the ship was beached in Lyme Bay on 20 January, an effective salvage operation has removed almost all of the fuel oil and all of the containers from the ship. The final container was removed on 17 May 2007. Only very small amounts of fuel oil, located in hard-to-reach sections of the ship, remain.

The most significant remaining task is the disposal of the ship, and work on this is already under way. We were aware that our options for disposing of the ship would be dependent on the condition of the ship itself and this could not be assessed properly while the ship was beached. Accordingly, the MSC “Napoli” was refloated on 9 July. A subsequent dive survey revealed that the hull was in an extremely fragile state. To reduce the risk of the ship breaking up in an uncontrolled manner, the Secretary of State’s representative for maritime salvage and intervention (SOSREP) took the decision to rebeach the ship.

A small amount of oil leaked from the ship during this operation. Clean-up procedures were put into operation immediately and, while a number of birds are reported to have been oiled, we believe that the environmental impact was not severe.

Once it was apparent that the entire ship could not be removed from Lyme Bay, SOSREP’s advice was that the best course of action was to separate the ship into two parts. The bow section of the ship is relatively intact and retains buoyancy. On the other hand, the stern section, which contains the ship’s engines, cannot be floated. By separating the two sections of the ship, we would have the opportunity to reduce the impact on Lyme Bay’s natural environment that would result from dismantling the entire ship in its current position.

Accordingly, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, with assistance from the Ministry of Defence, carried out a series of controlled detonations, using cutting charges, on the ship on 17, 18 and 20 July, with the aim of cutting the ship in two as cleanly as possible. Following the final set of detonations, the ship was separated on 20 July.

The stern section of the ship will need to be dismantled in its current location. The ship owners are currently tendering a contract for this work and are drawing up a detailed timeline. Plans for this work will need to take into account the protection of the local environment of Lyme Bay.

We believe that it should be possible to dismantle the bow section of the ship in line with the UK’s strategy on ship recycling, with little or no adverse environmental impact. The bow section of the ship will initially be held in deeper water in Lyme Bay, while the owners identify a suitable location for recycling.

I would like to express my thanks to SOSREP and the team of salvage, counter-pollution and environmental experts for their ongoing efforts in this situation.