'Not a free-for-all': Police patrol Devon beach where shipping container holding 14 tonnes of cigarettes washes ashore

 

Police have warned people to stay away from a beach in Devon where a shipping container with a cargo of several million cigarettes has washed ashore, insisting: “It is not a free-for-all.”

Beach patrols were set up after the 40-foot-long box was spotted bobbing to shore at Axmouth, on the Lyme Bay Coast near Seaton, early this morning. More than 14 tonnes of cigarettes were thought to be inside and unopened boxes of Lark cigarettes could be seen among the beach pebbles.

Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) later issued a warning to treasure hunters heading to the beach in the hope of picking up the cigarettes.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "We have officers there because it has been seized under section 273 of the Merchant Shipping Act. It is not a free-for-all for the public. There are dangers associated with containers and products which have washed ashore. The message is, police are seizing them and would ask the public to steer clear."

The MCA was informed that containers were lost from a Maersk cargo ship on Valentine’s Day as it crossed the northern stretch of the Bay of Biscay in stormy conditions.

More than 500 boxes fell into the water – most of them were empty and are thought to have sunk - as high winds hit the ship during an attempted passage from Rotterdam to Sri Lanka. Crew were not hurt but the loss of the containers is thought to have been one of the biggest ever losses suffered by Maersk. 

The MCA's aerial surveillance aircraft has been searching UK water, and ships passing through the English Channel have been warned and asked to report any sightings.

Simon Porter, MCA counter-pollution and salvage officer, said: "We have been carrying out extensive searches over the last four days and spotted three containers, one of which has since come ashore and the other two are mid-Channel. We are now working closely with Maersk to ensure they recover their containers, which are their property. The Beer Coastguard Rescue Team, police and council officials are currently on scene at Axmouth beach and the container has been cordoned off.

He added: "The public is reminded that all wreck material found in the UK has to be reported to the MCA's Receiver of Wreck. Those who don't declare items are breaking the law and could find themselves facing hefty fines and paying the owner twice the value of the item recovered."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine