A shipping container believed to be one of several containers that fell from a Maersk cargo ship has washed ashore on Devon Coast near Axmouth, England.
According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the containers are expected to have sunk in French waters, approximately 75 nautical miles south-west of Lands End on 14 February 2013, when the cargo ship crossed the northern stretches of the Bay of Biscay in stormy weather.
MCA counter pollution and salvage officer Simon Porter said the company has been carrying out extensive searches over the last four days and spotted three containers, one of which has since come ashore, and the other two are mid-channel.
"We are now working closely with Maersk to ensure they recover their containers, which are their property," Porter said.
Although most of the containers were empty, the one that washed up on shore was carrying 14t of cigarettes.
The coastguard is securing the cigarettes, as they are not intended for sale in the UK and do not have any duty paid on them.
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The coastguard’s Lyme Bay sector manager Peter Pritchard was quoted by BBC News as saying that, until such time as either duty is paid or they are destroyed, they have a value and have to go into a secure bonded facility overseen by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Porter said the Beer Coastguard Rescue Team, police and council officials are currently at Axmouth beach and the container has been cordoned off.
"The public is reminded that all wreck material found in the UK has to be reported to the MCA’s receiver of wreck by completing a form on our website," Porter added.
"Those who don’t declare items are breaking the law and could find themselves facing hefty fines and paying the owner twice the value of the item recovered."