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Up to 200 tonnes of oil may have leaked from a fuel tank on the listing vessel, sparking pollution concern.
It has emerged that the ship previously ran aground off Singapore in 2001.
Department of Transport salvage chief Robin Middleton said he had decided the ship should be towed in and beached in Lyme Bay to reduce environmental damage.
The 62,000 tonne vessel was carrying 2,323 containers, 158 of which are classed as having potentially hazardous contents.
Three of the containers already washed overboard contained battery acid and perfumes. Others housed a variety of goods including BMW motorbikes and car parts.
Looters have taken goods worth thousands of pounds that were washed ashore from the stricken ship MSC Napoli, beached off the Devon coast.
Police are patrolling Branscombe beach to try to stop more contents from about 20 washed up containers being taken.
Branscombe Police said looters have been warned it would be a crime to keep any of the ship's cargo.
Around 50 BMW motorbikes were carried off the beach last night