Several previous efforts to right the listing ship have failed.

A Spanish tugboat has reportedly been able to tow the severely listing Modern Express cargo ship away from the French coast.

The operation is part of a last-ditch effort mounted by French authorities and the ship’s owners to prevent it running aground on France’s southwest Atlantic coast and has thus far been successful.

The vessel is at least 40 miles from shore now after having drifted close enough to be in danger of grounding.

Four maritime salvage experts boarded the unmanned ship to attach a tow line and were then evacuated. The ship’s 22 crew members were evacuated a week ago when the ship developed a nearly 45-degree list.

Modern Express is under tow, travelling west at three knots, heading toward Bilbao, Spain.

1 February 2016

A last-ditch rescue effort is underway to stop an enormous cargo ship from running aground on France’s southwest coast.

The Modern Express cargo ship developed a list last week in the notoriously rough waters of the Bay of Biscay. Attempts to tow the ship at the weekend were thwarted by 20-foot waves and high winds.

The 163-foot ship developed a 45-degree list some 150 miles off the French coast and has drifted 100 miles closer to shore in the vicinity of Bordeaux over the course of nearly a week.

Attempts to right Modern Express began at the weekend when a Dutch salvage firm hired by the ship’s owners chartered two tug boats to attempt to tow the foundering vessel to safety. Tow lines on Modern Express snapped on Sunday in the heavy seas.

Today’s operation may be the last opportunity to secure the vessel before it hits the French coast, according to Prefet Maritime Atlantique, the French maritime authority in the region.

Several vessels are on hand to attempt to right the badly-listing ship, and French authorities have said the vessel would be continue to be accompanied, even in the event of a grounding, to limit any environmental impact. The ship’s cargo poses no danger to the environment, though its hundreds of tonnes of fuel poses a limited risk. The ship’s diesel tanks reportedly appear to be intact and should any fuel be spilled if the ship runs aground, vessels will be on the scene to contain and clean up any pollution.

HM Coastguard picked up a distress call from the crew of the ship on Tuesday of last week and Spanish helicopters evacuated all 22 onboard, leaving the ship and its 3,600 tonnes of cargo unmanned.


28 January 2016

The crew members were rescued by a joint intervention by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Falmouth and the Spanish Search and Rescue services (Salvamento Maritimo).

The HM Coastguard received a mayday call at 12.15 on 26 January from the cargo vessel, which was experiencing serious difficulties 148 miles off the Spanish coast in the Bay of Biscay.

The 34,000 tonne Modern Express ship was transporting timber from Gabon in Africa to Le Havre, France, and ran into trouble in gale force winds when the cargo had shifted and it was listing up to 40° degrees.

The Spanish coastguard released the following statement: “The ship, 163 metres long, was listing up to 40 degrees, which together with the weather, with force 8 south-westerly winds and very high seas with heavy waves, meant they decided to request evacuation, made more difficult by the great distance from land at which they found themselves”

The UK Coastguard helped co-ordinate the rescue and broadcast a mayday call. The Spanish Search and Rescue immediately sent three helicopters and a rescue plane and brought the 22 crew to safety on mainland.