Salvage teams have successfully taken in tow a £5m aquaculture support boat and the stricken Dutch cargo ship it came off two days ago.

The AQS Tor boat fell from the cargo deck of during severe storms off the Norwegian coast early Tuesday. The crew were forced to abandon ship amid 45 to 50 ft high waves. The weather was so bad at one point there were fears she might be lost.

What made a successful rescue all the more urgent was the news that the Eemslift Hendrika was carrying a total of four support vessels of varying size, worth NOK 150m (£13m). They were being delivered by a company called Moen Marin which is the world’s largest supplier of workboats to the aquaculture sector.

The cargo ship was also carrying 300 tonnes of heavy oil which could have posed a threat to the environment and coastal fish stocks.

Late last night after a day of high drama, the Eemslift Hendrika itself was taken in tow after a team from the Dutch company Smit Salvage were landed on deck by helicopter. It is now being escorted to safety.

Another salvage company, Stadt Sjøtransport, had earlier been brought in to rescue the support vessel AQS Tor being delivered to the fishing and fish farming support company AQS. The vessel was drifting helplessly near the Eemslift Hendrika.

It was a race against time because forecasters warned that an apparent lull in the weather was only temporary with the storms expected to return tonight.

The AQS Tor is being taken to the port of Florø, about 120 km north of Bergen. The company said last night that the boat seems to be in fairly good condition

AQS said it was pleased at the success of the operation, adding the AQS Tor had demonstrated its seaworthiness and should soon be carrying out the job it was designed for.

The company stressed the main priority throughout was to protect the environment and the safety of those involved in the salvage operations.

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