A DECISION on what to do about a 500-tonne boat that has gone adrift in the Taw Estuary is likely to be made this afternoon (Friday). The Severn Sands vessel slipped its moorings on last night s high tide and has run aground on a sandbank in the middle of

A DECISION on what to do about a 500-tonne boat that has gone adrift in the Taw Estuary is likely to be made this afternoon (Friday).

The Severn Sands vessel slipped its moorings on last night's high tide and has run aground on a sandbank in the middle of the river between Fremington and Chivenor.

Emergency discussions between North Devon District and Devon County Council are still on-going, with three possible outcomes being explored in consultation with other agencies including Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Environment Agency, and Bideford harbour master.

Fremington county and district councillor Rodney Cann said that the options had been discussed during a conference call earlier today: "The first, do nothing, is not really an option as the council is extremely worried about the prospect of the boat hitting the Downstream Bridge at Barnstaple," said Cllr Cann.

"The second option to anchor the boat is also not really viable as the vessel is too far away from the shoreline.

"The third and preferred option at this stage is to engage a contractor to tow the boat to Yelland on tonight's high tide, although that option could present its own difficulties as it might be too dark and therefore too dangerous.

"There are problems with each scenario but we will be holding another conference call to discuss it further later this afternoon."

The boat is understood to contain some 1,000 tyres, thousands of litres of diesel and oil as well as 30 to 40 drums of unknown chemicals.