Some 50 ships abandoned in the port of Montevideo by their owners because of debts or liens will be refloated and taken away, the Uruguayan National Port Administration, or ANP, said.

The owners of 25 percent of the ships still pay taxes as if they were in operation, but the vessels are deemed "abandoned" since "they have not moved from the spot where they are for many years," ANP chief Alberto Diaz said.

Another reason to remove the vessels is due to the debts or liens associated with them, President Tabare Vazquez's office said in a statement.

Officials do not see the abandoned ships as a problem for operations in Uruguay's main port, but the derelict vessels could be obstacles in the future.

The ships might be acquired either by the government or private companies interested in moving ashore.

The current regulations should be modified "to prevent the abandonment of ships because they impose high costs on the country," Diaz said.

Among the derelict vessels are Uruguayan and foreign ships whose disposal is complicated because owners and agents are hard to locate or operators have gone out of business.

The fishing boats, freighters and tugboats do not have much market value since most of them are big and old, but they could be sold for scrap.

Many of the abandoned ships contain large amounts of concrete, timber and insulation, all materials that are difficult to clean up.