Abandoned Car Carrier Drifting East in Bay of Biscay as List Worsens

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 230
January 27, 2016

The PCTC Modern Express seen listing in the Bay of Biscay, Wednesday, January 27, 2016, after the arrival of the Abeille Bourbon. Photo credit: Marine Nationale

The French Navy is continuing to monitor the abandoned pure car and truck carrier Modern Express in the Bay of Biscay one day after the vessel developed a severe list.

An update Wednesday from the France’s Maritime Prefect Atlantic said the ship continues to pose a hazard to navigation as it drifts eastward at 3 knots. The vessel’s location was approximately 200 miles west of La Rochelle, France at time of update. 

In Pictures: The Amazing Race to Save the Modern Express

Surveillance flights on Wednesday indicated that vessel’s list had increased, suggesting that the car carrier was taking on water, according to Maritime Prefect. 

The French emergency towing vessel Abeille Bourbon is on scene and monitoring the situation.


The owner of the vessel has contracted Smit Salvage to carry out salvage operations.

The French warship, FS Primauguet, is expected to arrive on scene early Thursday.

As gCaptain reported previously, all 22 crew members were evacuated from the Modern Express on Wednesday by two Spanish search and rescue helicopters after the ship developed a severe list while underway in the Bay of Biscay. Weather on scene was severe with gale force winds of Force 8 and waves of 5 to 6 meters. The ship was first reported to be listing at 40 degrees to starboard.

Waves in the area increased to 5 to 7 meters on Wednesday, maritime weather expert Fred Pickhardt tells gCaptain.

gCaptain’s previous report on this story with photos and video of the rescue can be found HERE.

The initial response was being coordinated by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Falmouth in the United Kingdom, but was taken over by the French authorities after drifting into French waters. 

The Panamanian-flagged roll-on/roll-off car carrier is carrying 3,600 tons of timber and construction equipment.

The incident occurred as the ship was sailing from the country of Gabon to Le Havre, France.

Update: SMIT Salvage hase arrived on site with the FS Primauguet and Abeille Bourbon.


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