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Devon Beach-Combers Lap Up Wrecked Ship Cargo

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 11:44 by Eliza E. Lanyard

Goods from a stricken container ship, the MSC Napoli, are being strewn along the beaches of Devon with each lap of the tide. If you go down to the beach today, you could find bags of fertiliser, face cream, cat food, nappies, car parts, BMW motorbikes, casks of wine and even 4×4 vehicles.

A cornucopia of desirable consumer items compared to the plastic bottles, seaweed, dead crabs, and used johnnies which more usually line our shores. Police have estimated that 200 people have so far carried off 50 motorbikes and countless packs of disposable nappies between them.

According to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995 you are supposed to declare anything you find on the beach by filling in a form and giving it to the official ‘Receiver of Wrecks’ within 28 days of finding the loot, if you don’t you can be accused of theft.

Hiding the goods and not giving them back is a criminal offence, with a possible fine of £2,500. However it seems this legal nicety is largely being ignored, as is the risk of encountering dangerous chemicals as people comb the beach for beached bargains.

Operating on a ‘finders keepers’ basis most have said that the goods they find will be on eBay by the end of the day. This is set to end tomorrow though as the legal owners of the goods are working with the police to fence off the beach to stop further losses. Spoil sports.

You don’t often hear of ships being smashed upon our shores and spilling their goods so I wonder what the Receiver of Wrecks does with the rest of their time? Hang round peoples houses as they return from all-nighters? Hang round car auctions looking at old bangers? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

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3 Comments on “Devon Beach-Combers Lap Up Wrecked Ship Cargo”

  1. theo Says:

    The local moonrakers are up in arms as the townies from everywhere else descend on the picturesque beaches of north Devon to pillage and scavenge the rightful pickings of the traditional shipwrecking local. hundreds of years of expectations have been swept on to the rocks of modernity as Devonian natives are beaten to the free swag sweeping in on the oily tides of the Atlantic and they are mightily pissed off and whose to blame them as their heritage coastline is basted in heavy oil and BMW motorbikes? Amongst the comments of righteous indignation garnered by the news companies was this from the Wrecks and salvage overseer of south west England and Cornwall who saw children as young as… “Six or seven, sitting on the beach , unsupervised, in freezing tempretures as their parents scavenged container wreckage..”. Oh those irresponsible scavenging parents! Uncle Tom Cobbley defended himself against the charges by declaring himself a beachcomber and an environmentalist merelyt cleaning up after the Chinese container ship company. One other woman , a Swede, exporting her worldly goods to somewhere else saw her treasures being picked over on the beaches and was very upset to see her father’s ” embroideries” on the sands.. I thought that was a given risk, a ship sinking but no she was “shattered” and “hoped they would hand it in..”

  2. sam cox Says:

    IF you knew 3 days before you beached it why didn’t you put standing blocks under it so it could sit squarely on the sea bed then the contaners would not of have fallen off.

    from sam cox age 10

  3. Roger Thomas Says:

    Not sure whether Eliza or theo were personaly responsible for beaching the ship Sam. Though I take your point. Don’t think I would be practical to chock up a 60,000 plus tonne ship, but I can’t see why steel ropes etc could not have been used to secure the containers. Last I heard another 8 containers had fallen off. 100 plus in total and nearly 300 have been taken off. The containers that haven’t washed up on the beach supposed to be fun, apparently they tend to float just under the surface, waiting for smaller craft to run into them.

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