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The laws of salvage - Rich pickings

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    The laws of salvage - Rich pickings

    <t></t><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="305"><t><tr><td><h1>Locals take booty, as oil pumped from grounded ship</h1>

    @@@@SPAN>David Byers and agencies@@@@/SPAN>

    <td height="10"></td>

    <!- main story start->


    An operation to pump 3,500 tonnes of oil from
    a grounded container shipon theDevon coastlinehas started - as
    opportunistsrisked prosecution by making off withtens of thousands of
    pounds worth ofbooty washed up in containers.</font>

    <t></t><table valign="TOP" align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><t><tr><td name="mpuer" id="mpuer">
    </td></tr><tr align="right"><td align="right">&lt; ="text/"&gt;NI_MPU('middle');
    </td></tr></t></table>The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said that the mission to remove the oil from the striken MSC Napoli, which is beached by Branscombe Beach a mile off Sidmouth, could take up to a week.</font>

    The intricate operation started as local residents
    and opportunists this morning made off with various treasures found in
    some of the ship's fallen containers, including BMW motorbikes, storage
    barrels, car parts such as steering wheels, perfumes, alcoholand even
    nappies. </font>
    PC Steve Speariett, the Branscombe Police beat manager, said an
    estimated 15 BMW motorbikes were carried off the beach last night.

    "A couple of hundred people have been on the beach today, taking
    things away, and there were around the same number last night," he
    said. "Around 15 BMW motorbikes were carried off the beach last night."

    Other products carried away were beauty cream, steering wheels and exhaust pipes.

    Ten police were on the beach today to prevent containers being
    broken open. They were also telling members of the public of their
    obligation to report anything taken to the Receiver of Wreck with 28
    days. Failure to do so was an offence. </font>

    Peoplemade their way to the beach despite
    being warned not to go near the vessel by police and the MCA, who said
    three of the 200 containers that had fallen from the grounded ship
    contained toxic substances such as battery acid. </font>

    The MCA this morning also warned that anyone taking
    goods wouldbe considered as thieves and fined up to £2,500 unless they
    reported the recovery to authorities. The owner of the goods then has
    one year to come forward toclaim the property or it is likely to
    remain with the finder.</font>

    AnMCA spokeswoman said: "We remind people that if
    they are removing things without undertaking the correct procedures,
    then they are stealing. The legal position is that anything which is
    washed ashore is `wreck' and that still belongs to the wreck owner. </font>

    "In the first instance they are arranging their own
    recovery operation and are requesting that people stay away. If anybody
    has already made recoveries from the wreck they are obliged by law to
    report to the recoverer of wreck. </font>

    "Failing to do so is a criminal offence, effectively they are stealing from the owners. The fine is up to £2,500 per offence." </font>

    The containers have been falling into the sea ever
    since the ship was caught up in the fierce storms on Thursday and
    suffered severe structural damage, which led to a decision to
    deliberately beach her on Saturday to prevent the ship and her cargo
    sinking. There are still 2,400 containers still on board the ship, s