Tuesday 2 February 2016 9:54 am

In pictures: Modern Express, a giant, listing cargo ship, has just narrowly avoided crashing into the French coast

The French maritime agency has confirmed it has prevented a massive cargo ship from crashing into its coast during a last-ditch rescue attempt.

The Modern Express was listing badly in gale-force conditions just over 28 miles off the French coast. It was feared the ship would run aground at some point today, after several attempts to turn it around failed because of bad weather

But this morning the French maritime agency said two Spanish tug boats, the Centaurus and the Ria de Vigo, had managed to turn the ship around and tow it out to sea. 

It's now heading towards Bilbao – but the statement warned that in rough waters, preventing it from being stranded is a major challenge.

"The tow line can break," it said. "The priority now is to keep the ship from the shore." 

The 538-foot ship was carrying 3,600 tons of wood, as well as construction vehicles, from Gabon in Africa to Le Havre, in France. 

Last Tuesday, while it was about 200 nautical miles from the southwest tip of France, it developed a severe list. 

All 22 members of its crew were rescued by Spanish search and rescue helicopters – but it continued to drift towards France.