Salvage experts board stricken cargo ship off French coast

29th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Dutch salvage experts on Friday began preparing a stricken Panamanian-registered cargo ship for towing three days after it broke down off the western coast of France, maritime authorities said.

A helicopter carried four experts from Smit Salvage to the Modern Express, which was listing dangerously in rough seas, they said.

The company wants to take advantage of a good "weather window" before forecast inclement weather sets in, an official said.

Because the 164-metre-long (538-foot) vessel is listing at 40 to 50 degrees, towing it will be dangerous and difficult, but not impossible, experts said.

"Apparently it has reached its maximum tilt," said Yvon Mounes, a former commander of a high-seas tugboat. "However it's certain that if (it takes on water) it will sink. A boat doesn't float indefinitely."

The ship's 22 crew -- who were from the Philippines, according to the Spanish press -- were evacuated by helicopter in dramatic scenes on Tuesday after they sent out a distress call.

The cause of the breakdown remains unknown.

The ship, which was carrying diggers and 3,600 tonnes of timber, was drifting eastwards at a speed of 1.3 knots (2.4 kilometres per hour or 1.5 miles per hour).

A French frigate and a tug were at the scene as wells as two Spanish tugs sent by the ship's owners after French authorities warned them to take action to prevent the ship posing a danger.

© 2016 AFP

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