Members of the public are being urged not to salvage timber that has washed up along the coastline of East Lothian and south eastern Scotland after a cargo ship lost a significant amount of its load.
The cargo vessel Frisian Lady lost some 200 timber bundles during severe weather on 2 March while she was positioned 110 nautical miles east of Souter Lighthouse, off the South Shields coast.
Some of the timber was recovered at sea and the rest of the timber packets in various sizes between 2.5-3 metres long are believed to have largely broken up into individual planks.
They have now been reported as washing up on beaches between Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders and St Andrews in Fife. Residents also said there was driftwood spread along Portobello beach on Wednesday.
Local authorities that are affected are monitoring the situation along their coastline and leading the clean-up operations within their area.
Sandy Baptie, emergency planning and risk manager at East Lothian Council, said: “While the East Lothian coastline has had some planks washed ashore we have not been significantly affected so we don’t anticipate any real hazard to vessels in the area.
“We are working with partners to monitor the situation and remove any planks that are on or just off the East Lothian coastline.
“We would emphasise the key messages to members of the public that they should not put themselves at risk to recover any planks they find.
“The council is working with specialist teams to do this. Also, if any members of the public have recovered planks, they must report this to the Receiver of Wrecks as it is a criminal offence to keep lost cargo.”
Chief Inspector James Jones of Police Scotland is urging members of the public not to attempt to salvage any of the timber themselves.
He said: “Some areas of our coastline can be dangerous, with strong tides, deep water and rocky areas. Do not put yourself at risk by trying to recover any of the timber yourself – contractors who are brought in to clear the timber away have been trained to deal with such situations and have the equipment to do so, please leave it to the professionals.”
HM Coastguard had been issuing navigational safety broadcasts to warn shipping of the lost cargo after the incident.
However, aerial surveillance indicates that most timber is no longer at sea in large concentrations and has washed ashore.
Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, all recoveries of wreck material, which covers any timber lost from a vessel at sea, must be reported to the receiver of wreck. Failing to report removal of wreck to the receiver is a criminal offence. Reports can be filed at www.gov.uk/guidance/wreck-and-salvage-law.
Alison Kentuck, receiver of wreck for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, said: “Our biggest concern is to make sure that members of the public don’t put themselves at risk attempting to retrieve any timber. The timber will not be suitable for use as a building material as it’s been saturated with salt water.
“It is not a case of finders’ keepers, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency is continuing to work alongside the P&I Club and the local authorities to offer support for the clean-up operations. If members of the public see any timber washed ashore, this can be reported to the Aberdeen Coastguard Operations Centre on 01224 592 334.”
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