More than two years after a wrecked container ship polluted Dorset beaches with wreckage and oiled birds, it is finally being removed from a Devon cove.

The 62,000 tonne Napoli, deliberately beached at Branscombe in January 2007 after being damaged during a violent storm, has been gradually cut up and taken away.

The second most expensive wreck in maritime history, costing an estimated £120 million in clean-up, salvage and the loss of vessel and cargo, it hit the headlines when contents including BMW motorbikes were looted from beaches.

Items including Kinder eggs, shampoo bottles, medical waste and tiny plastic nurdles from burst containers were washed up on beaches as far away as Purbeck’s World Heritage Jurassic Coast and Bournemouth.

Now the operation to remove the final part of the wreck is under way.

Earlier this year Global Response Maritime positioned 12 lifting chains under the hull and is now preparing to lift it to the surface for demolition and recycling.

Two 140m barges rigged with heavy mobile cranes are on site and 24 chain-pullers have been installed. It is anticipated the wreck will finally be removed by the end of August.

Hugh Shaw, Secretary of States Representative in Maritime Salvage and Intervention said: “Weather permitting a test lift may take place on June 2 or 3. If successful, lifting and cutting will then commence.

“Maritime and Coastguard Agency aerial surveillance flights will continue to patrol the area on a routine basis.”

The contract included the total removal of the stern, including the main engine, and the delivery of the scrap to the Netherlands.

“However I will not sign off the project until a final underwater inspection and demobilisation of equipment has been completed,” said Mr Shaw.