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Experts ready to take oil off damaged ship

An operation to remove 180 tonnes of oil from a cargo vessel...

An operation to remove 180 tonnes of oil from a cargo vessel that ran aground on rocks near the Island of Mull will get under way this evening.

It hopes the Swedish-registered Lysfoss, which was freed from rocks off the west coast of Scotland on Friday night, will then be towed to Belfast on Tuesday.

After its cargo is removed, it is expected to be transported to the continent for repairs.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman says the damage to three tanks on board is "extensive" but initial fears of an environmental disaster have been averted.

He said: "The amount of damage to the hull of the vessel prohibits on-scene repair. I have accepted a plan from the salvage manager which means that the fuel oil will be transferred from the damaged tanks to the towing vessel before she can depart to a port of repair.

"The process of transferral, called hot tapping, means access holes are drilled high up in the damaged tanks and the fuel oil is pumped out.

"The whole process is tried and tested and will mean when the vessel is towed to a port of repair, there is only the slightest amount of fuel oil left in the tanks with the potential to enter the water."

Kevin Colcomb, MCA senior scientist, said: "We are assisting fish farmers in the proximity of the oil with protection measures to ensure they continue to remain unaffected by the incident.

"The very small quantity of oil remaining in the Sound of Mull continues to disperse."

The Swedish-registered vessel was en route from Sweden to Belfast when it grounded just after 5.30am on Monday. The eight-man crew was unhurt.