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Container ship stuck on Dutch sandbank

Dutch maritime authorities are scrambling to free a large container ship which ran aground on a sandbank near the Belgian border this morning, a regional disaster management organisation's spokesman said.

"The ship is stuck on a sandbank after an earlier attempt to pull her loose was unsuccessful," Zeeland Region Safety's Aart Oosten told AFP.

"She is well and truly stuck and we are also going into low tide, causing further difficulties," he added.

He said the 360-metre MSC Luciana ran onto a sandbank in the Westerschelde, the large sea-channel that connects the port of Antwerp with the North Sea at around 8:30 am (0630 GMT).

"At the moment, we have several groups including the Dutch maritime authorities in a meeting to see how we will proceed," Oosten said, adding the Panamanian-registered ship posed no immediate danger to the environment.

"There is no danger and her crew remains on board," he said, adding more would be known about the plan to free the Luciana after the meeting. The ship was on its way from Antwerp to an unknown destination when it ran aground.

The Westerschelde, about 140 kilometres (87 miles) southwest of Amsterdam is one of the world's busiest sea lanes, according to the Dutch government's website.

"Shipping in this sea-lane has to contend with big differences in tide as well as partially-submerged sandbanks," it said.

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