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Spanish oil tanker freed from Lisbon sandbank after 10 days

Staff Writer |
A Spanish oil tanker stuck in a sandbank in the Lisbon estuary for 10 days was finally freed on Friday.

"From midnight the tug boat gradually upped the tension and managed to drag the ship into a deeper area, until it began to float at around 2:30 am," Fernando Pereira da Fonseca of the National Maritime Authority (AMN) told the Portuguese Lusa News Agency.

"Two smaller tugs will now take the Betanzos to the docks at Beato," he added. "The ship will be inspected to assess the condition of the parts that were submerged and if there is damage it will have to be repaired before the ship continues its journey."

Betanzos is the name of an 118-meter cargo ship that ran aground in the early hours of March 6 after leaving the docks at Beato, in Lisbon, bound for Casablanca, Morocco.

The ship, which sails under the Spanish flag, suffered a power failure. The skipper attempted to drop anchor, but strong waves pushed the boat into a sandbank beside Bugio, a small island with a lighthouse in the middle of the River Tagus estuary.

There it remained as numerous salvage attempts ended in failure or had to be abandoned due to high winds and huge waves. A giant tugboat eventually had to be brought up from Gibraltar and wait for a high-tide.

Betanzos is carrying 130 tonnes of petrol and 20 tonnes of oil residues so there were fears of a spillage and an environmental disaster.

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