Amid 6-meter waves, experts try to salvage listing freighter adrift off France


A team of experts are expected to make a final attempt on Monday to salvage a cargo ship that has been adrift off the coast of France for five days before it runs aground.

High winds and 6-meter (20-feet) waves made weekend rescue attempts impossible.

Vice-Adm. Emmanuel De Oliveira of the Atlantic Maritime Prefecture said a final effort to attach a towing cable to the 164-meter vessel, which is listing nearly 90 degrees, is set for dawn Monday. If that fails, he said, the vessel will run aground in southwest France by Tuesday night.

Spanish helicopters evacuated the 22-member crew last Tuesday after the Modern Express, carrying 3,600 tons of wood and equipment, sent out a distress call.

The vessel was drifting south and by Sunday afternoon it was 100 km (60 miles) off the coast of the vacation town of Arcachon, south of Bordeaux. If not put in tow, it was expected to run aground farther south, in the Landes region, De Oliveira told a news conference.

He said he expected only “limited” environmental impact if the Panama-registered vessel hits the coast because the cargo was mainly wood and there were so far no signs of leaking of its 300 tons of fuel.

Experts from the Dutch company Smit Salavage was called in to try to capture the drifting vessel, helped by two Spanish tugs and a French ship.

It is “totally impossible put the cargo ship upright,” De Oliveira said.