Boss hails skill of ship drama crew


Published: Monday 5th January 2015 by The News Editor

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The crew of a car carrier stranded next to a busy shipping lane “showed great skill” after grounding the ship deliberately to prevent it from capsizing, its owner has said.

The 51,000 tonne Hoegh Osaka became stricken on the Bramble Bank between Southampton and the Isle of Wight after it sailed from the Hampshire port with its cargo of 1,400 cars.

The incident prompted a major rescue operation with the 24 crew members and a pilot having to be taken to safety by coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboats. Two people suffered non-life threatening injuries and were taken to hospital.

The 180-metre Singapore-registered ship is currently listing at 52 degrees and the salvage operation is expected to take days, possibly weeks.

A 200-metre exclusion zone has been set up around the ship to prevent small vessels interfering with the tugs and other shipping.

Ingar Skiaker, CEO of Hoegh Autoliners which owns the vessel, said that no oil leaked from the vessel and preventing any environmental impact was his key priority.

He said: “All crew plus one pilot, in total 25 people were evacuated from the vessel and all are safe and accounted for. Two crew members were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The crew is currently being offered all possible support and assistance to help them cope with the ordeal they have been through.

“We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this challenging rescue operation, with a special thanks to the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the RNLI, DNV and Southampton’s Port Authorities.

“Hoegh Autoliners’ key concern has been for the crew and we are thankful to everyone that they are all safely ashore.

“Our vessel developed a severe list shortly after she left port and the pilot and the master took the decision to save the vessel and its crew by grounding her on the bank. This showed great skill and seamanship on behalf of our crew when faced with such challenging circumstances.

“At this stage it is too early to speculate on the cause of the list but we are starting an immediate investigation.

“Right now we have serious work ahead of us in order to free the vessel from the Bramble Bank without disrupting the flow of traffic in and out of the Port of Southampton. An investigation is ongoing as to what occurred last night and that is being conducted by the MAIB.

“Our chief concern now is to ensure there is no environmental damage from this incident. There is no oil spill reported at this point however we understand that the UK authorities have brought their spill response to a state of active readiness.

“The vessel is currently considered stable, and we are closely working with our appointed salvors Svitzer, who in turn, are working alongside Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s representative in Maritime Salvage and Intervention, as well as the Port of Southampton, to prepare for a safe and successful salvage of the vessel with minimal disruption to the port and it environment.”

Mr Shaw told a press conference in Southampton that the salvers would spend the next few days going on board the ship to establish if the cargo, which as well as the cars includes 70 to 80 pieces of construction equipment, had shifted and the implication for the operation to refloat the vessel.

He said that so far none of the 500 tonnes of fuel onboard had leaked, saying: “There has been no release of oil into the environment and we are determined to keep the situation that way – we are not looking for a quick fix here.”

Mr Shaw said the ship had been assessed as stable.

He added: “I am confident that the vessel owners are working professionally and promptly and have appointed salvors who arrived on scene early this morning and have already started work to assess options for salvage and the removal of the vessel.

“Further salvage personnel and salvage equipment is expected to arrive on scene tonight. Further assessments will be carried out over the next few days and these will assist the salvage team to formulate a suitable salvage plan.”

Mr Skiaker said he would not speculate on what caused the ship to list but added that a full investigation was underway.

He said: “Now that people are sound and safe, it’s about preventing any damage to the environment, then the dollars and cents and the causes of the accident we will look at later.”

The Marine Accident Incident Branch (MAIB) has been informed.

A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “There is no impact on vessels transiting the Solent as the vessel is not within a shipping channel.”

One crew member is understood to have been pulled from the water during the rescue operation while the majority of the crew had made their way to the high side of the ship and were taken to safety. Two senior officers and a pilot stayed on board before being taken ashore.

The MCA said a helicopter mounted a rescue for the crew while RNLI lifeboats from Yarmouth, Calshot and Cowes were also sent to the scene.

A RNLI spokesman said those taken off the ship included 24 crew members and two pilots. Some crew were airlifted from the vessel by the Lee-on-the-Solent Coastguard helicopter and the Rescue 169 helicopter from RAF Chivenor.

A Yarmouth RNLI crew member was winched aboard to help pull up casualties who were trapped on board.

Initially, the captain, third mate and a vessel traffic service pilot were left on board but were airlifted to safety by the coastguard helicopter.

The stricken carrier has become a tourist attraction with car parks along the coast filling up with people wishing to view it and Hampshire police posted advice to motorists on Facebook warning them that the area had become “extremely busy”.

Bramble Bank is a well-known sandbank in Southampton Water and is the scene of an annual cricket match between two yachting clubs when the sands are exposed in low spring tides.

In November 2008, the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2 with 1,700 passengers on board ran aground on Bramble Bank but was able to continue its journey on the rising tide after four tugs pulled it clear.

Published: Monday 5th January 2015 by The News Editor

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