Coastguards were last night confident an operation to stabilise a fuel-laden tugboat had averted an environmental disaster along the Westcountry's Riviera coastline – despite its 'cargo' sinking without trace.
Officials said a last-ditch attempt to prevent the ocean-going tug Christos XXII from joining the ex-German Naval training ship at the bottom of Tor Bay had succeeded.
The already stricken and under-tow Emsstrom was irreparably damaged after it ran into the back of the tug late on Sunday night and the ship finally sank around 1.30pm yesterday, some 2.5 nautical miles out to sea.
Eight sailors – all foreign nationals – were rescued from the Greek-registered tug after the Torbay lifeboat and a Naval helicopter answered a Mayday call in a night-time operation.
Salvors are confident that the sunken ship – which had been stripped bare and was en route from Germany to Turkey to be scrapped – poses no danger whatsoever to wildlife or shipping.
The damaged tug was last night being fitted with steel plates ahead of being towed overnight to safety in Portland harbour, where it is expected to be tied up this morning.
Coastguards said they were confident they had won the battle to prevent hundreds of tonnes of diesel spilling into the sea.
A Brixham coastguard spokesman told the Western Morning News: "It all looks stable and they would not even attempt the move if they were not satisfied that it was safe.
"They will hug the shoreline to get shelter from the winds – that's the plan."