Listing cargo ship towed from French coast

Story highlights

  • Cargo ship is being towed away from the French coast, Atlantic Maritime Prefecture says
  • Ship started listing last week; all crew have been rescued

(CNN)A badly listing cargo ship has successfully been towed away from the coast of France in a last-ditch attempt to keep it from running aground, according to regional officials.

A ship is towing the Modern Express at between 2 and 3 knots, making it certain the ship won't be stranded on the French coast, a statement from the Atlantic Maritime Prefecture said. Spanish authorities will welcome the ship at the port in Bilbao.

The cargo ship began listing off the southwest coast last Tuesday and could not be righted because of gusty winds and 20-foot waves, Vice-Admiral Emmanuel de Oliveira told reporters earlier.

The ship's position had been 50 nautical miles (57 miles) from Arcachon, near Bordeaux, on France's Atlantic coast. If Monday's rescue had failed, the 538-foot ship had been expected to run aground on the Landes coast in the southwest of France some time between Monday and Tuesday night.

Trouble strikes

    The Modern Express, a Panamanian registered roll-on/roll-off cargo ship, began listing last Tuesday some 200 nautical miles (230 miles) southwest of Penmarch, a town farther north on the Atlantic coast. All 22 crew members were airlifted to safety by Spanish rescue helicopters.

    The cargo, nearly 4,000 tons of wood and some vehicles, did not present an environmental hazard, de Oliveira told journalists.