Stricken 'moving mountain' ship towed into Spanish port

2016-02-04 05:14
The stricken vessel Modern Express at the port of the northern Spanish city of Bilbao. (Alvaro Barrientos, AP)

The stricken vessel Modern Express at the port of the northern Spanish city of Bilbao. (Alvaro Barrientos, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bilbao - A stricken cargo ship carrying timber from west Africa was successfully towed into the northern Spanish port of Bilbao on Wednesday after a days-long salvage operation prevented it from crashing into the neighbouring French coast.

A tugboat dragged the listing Panama-registered "Modern Express" into the port accompanied by other vessels, an AFP photographer said, after an unexplained breakdown in high seas last month forced the 22 crew to abandon ship in a dramatic helicopter rescue.

The 164-metre-long (538-foot) ship will now have to be moored and put upright again in the coming days in the biggest ever such operation organised by the port of Bilbao, one of the largest on Spain's Atlantic coast.

The Modern Express was carrying diggers and 3,600 tonnes of timber from Gabon in west Africa to the port of Le Havre in Normandy, France when it ran into difficulties in January.

It was also carrying 300 tonnes of fuel oil, although authorities said there was a limited risk of pollution in the event of a crash.

The ship's crew sent a distress signal on January 26 after the vessel listed strongly to one side, possibly due to its cargo coming loose in the hull.

Two Spanish helicopters were dispatched to airlift the crew to safety.

They had been left clinging to the deck of the ship after it tilted at 40 degrees while buffeted by large waves and high winds.

- 'Moving mountain' -

The abandoned ship then drifted in rough seas for several days before authorities launched a bid to attach a tow line and stop it from hitting the French coast.

Dutch salvage experts were lowered by helicopter onto the vessel to try and attach the line.

They failed three times, with the cable snapping on Saturday due to swells of up to five metres (16 feet).

"The difficulty is a combination of several things: the wind, the swell and the angle of the boat which is like climbing a mountain, but which is moving," a spokesperson for SMIT Salvage, the Dutch company working to attach the towline, told AFP over the weekend.

On Monday, as the ship was approaching dangerously close to the coast not far from the western French resort of La Rochelle, they launched a final attempt and succeeded in connecting a tugboat to the vessel.

The tugboat pivoted the ship, pointed it towards the open sea and started slowly dragging it away from France to Bilbao at the request of the vessel's owner, South Korean firm Cido Shipping.

By late Tuesday it was nearing Bilbao, according to Spanish authorities, who decided to delay the operation to bring it into port until daylight Wednesday.

If the towing operation had failed, the Modern Express would likely have crashed into France's coast, where it would have been dismantled or cut up.

Read more on:    spain  |  france

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


How to open a beer bottle without an opener

Do the right thing and never be thirsty again…


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…
WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.