Cargo ship sheds timber in rough seas

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A Russian-registered cargo ship today lost 1,500 metric tonnes of timber in rough seas in the English Channel, coastguards said.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said that at 8.15am the ship Sinegorsk reported that it had lost the wood around 14 miles off the coast of Newhaven, East Sussex.

He said it was too early to say if or where the timber would be washed up on the coast.

In January last year more than 2,000 tonnes of timber was washed up along the coast of Sussex after the Greek-registered Ice Prince sank about 26 miles south of Dorset.A coastguard helicopter flew over the area to monitor the wood, made up of sawn timber that had been stored in bundles on the vessel.

The ship had been bound for Alexandria, Egypt, but was now heading towards Portsmouth as it was listing 15 degrees to one side.

A coastguard tug was proceeding to the vessel to be on standby to escort it to the port and assist if necessary.

Fred Caygill, of the MCA, said the ship lost its load as it came into the south west lane of the Dover straits, approaching Newhaven.

He said the Marine Accident Investigation Branch would be investigating how the ship came to lose the timber but added that the rough seas were likely to have been a factor.

"We can't say that definitely caused it but generally weather has an effect," he said.

Mr Caygill said the MCA had been in touch with local authorities to warn them that timber could be washed up along the coastline.

He said the wood was currently "a long way offshore" but added that if it did drift towards land it could lead to a "similar" situation as the Ice Prince, which lost its timber cargo when it sank about 26 miles off Dorset last January.

A spokesman for Transmanche Ferries, which operates ferry services from Newhaven to Dieppe, said its vessels were operating normally and that it was not expected the incident would affect future services.