Norway fears cargo ship will run aground, spill oil within hours

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OSLO (Reuters) -A Dutch cargo ship that was abandoned at sea during a storm this week is on course to run aground in Norway early on Thursday and could cause an oil spill unless a last-ditch effort to save the vessel prevails, local officials said on Wednesday.

The Eemslift Hendrika, badly listing after parts of its cargo shifted in the rough weather, is adrift just 18 kilometres (11 miles) from shore and could make landfall at around 0230 GMT, the Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) said.

While the NCA earlier said the Hendrika was drifting parallel to the coast, and that rescue efforts could wait for another day while two large tugs remain on standby, it will now accelerate the effort.

"We've succeeded in lowering a salvage crew onto the Eemslift Hendrika. They are working to establish tow lines," the NCA said in a statement.

The Hendrika has around 350 tonnes of heavy oil and 50 tonnes of diesel in its tanks, it added.

Footage released by the Norwegian Rescue Coordination Centre on Tuesday showed some of the original crew members jumping into the sea before being rescued by helicopter. Others were hoisted directly from the deck.

The Coastal Administration late on Wednesday said it had invoked a government mandate to resume full operational command over the salvage operation, and that equipment had been mobilised along the coast to combat the spread of any oil spill.

Built in 2015 and registered in the Netherlands, the 111.6 metre (366 feet) Eemslift Hendrika is a yacht transport vessel, carrying smaller boats on its deck, according to Monaco-based Starclass Yacht Transport, which markets the ship's services.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik in OsloEditing by Matthew Lewis)