The government and owners of a grounded ship on Friday abandoned plans to sink the vessel and its cargo of about 3,000 cars.

The decison followed a protest by environmentalists claiming the dumping would hurt marine life.The government said the plans were abandoned because bad weather had damaged the 58,000-ton vessel, the Reijin, making it impossible to float the ship far enough out to sea to dump the cars.

"Because of the weather, the Reijin's hull has fractured," Jose Macario Correia, secretary of state for the environment and natural resources, told The Associated Press.

"The cars will probably be transported to the shore and disposed of, and we are also looking into ways of dismantling the ship totally to bring it to shore," he said.