THE owner of an abandoned boat that caused major panic when it re-floated on high tides last week has decided to give up his rights to the vessel. A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said that discussions about what to do with the

THE owner of an abandoned boat that caused major panic when it re-floated on high tides last week has decided to give up his rights to the vessel.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said that discussions about what to do with the Severn Sands, currently beached alongside the Tarka Trail near Ashford, could now get underway.

The MCA's head of communications, Maggie Hill said that the boat would be moved to an as yet unknown site, where it would be decontaminated and broken up.

She said: "Following talks with owner of the 'Severn Sands', the owner has decided to give up his rights in order that the authorities, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Environment Agency; Devon County Council; and North Devon Council along, with other interested parties, can now enter into negotiations with contractors to prepare to move the vessel to an agreed site so that the vessel can be de-polluted and disposed off."

The 500-tonne dredger, understood to contain tyres, diesel, oil and drums of unknown chemicals, has been subject of on-going discussions between the local authorities and the MCA since slipping its original moorings at Fremington Quay in March 2007.

Last Friday, the boat, described as a floating "environmental time bomb", drifted perilously close to houseboats and there were fears it could collide with Barnstaple's downstream bridge.