Carrier re-float effort put on hold
Efforts to re-float a car carrier which was deliberately stranded on a sandbank will not take place tomorrow after salvage experts said the vessel had taken on more water than previously thought.
The 51,000-tonne Hoegh Osaka was grounded on the Bramble Bank between Southampton and the Isle of Wight on Saturday after it set sail from the Hampshire port.
The vessel, which has a cargo of 1,400 cars and 80 pieces of construction equipment, began to list as it left the port, forcing the captain and the pilot to take the emergency action of beaching it on the sandbank to prevent it capsizing.
The incident prompted a major rescue operation, with 24 crew members and a pilot taken to safety by coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboats. Two people were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
There were hopes that the vessel could have been re-floated on tomorrow's high tide, due at midday.
But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency tonight said plans had been delayed.
A spokesman said: "Following the completion of the salvors' calculations this evening, it has been decided that there will not be an attempt to re-float the Hoegh Osaka tomorrow.
"The salvors' calculations revealed that more water has entered the vessel than previously thought.
"The preparation for the re-float will therefore take longer than the weather window will allow tomorrow.
"The alternative option of securing the Hoegh Osaka will be followed and preparations for the re-float will continue when the weather allows."
The 180m Singapore-registered ship is listing at 52 degrees and the salvage operation is expected to take days, possibly weeks.
A 200m exclusion zone has been set up around the ship to prevent small vessels interfering with the tugs and other shipping.
The ship's 500 tonnes of fuel is also being kept on board to prevent any leakage while attempting to move it.
Bram Sperling, of salvage company Svitzer, said there were two possible courses of action - to attempt a re-float or to anchor it to the sandbank while plans are made to right it in its current position.
Once re-floated, the operation to right the ship would involve external ballast systems as the ship's own mechanisms would no longer be working, he added.
Mr Sperling said members of his 18-strong team had been on board the vessel and inspected the cargo, most of which had remained in place.
It includes 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, 65 Mini cars and 105 pieces of JCB construction equipment.
He said: "We have not looked in detail at the cargo, we have only looked if we have some displacement of the cargo and we have seen a few vehicles, big ones, that have."
However, he said that an excavator had shifted on the sixth deck, knocking a hole in the hull which they had since repaired.
Hugh Shaw, Secretary of State's representative for Maritime Salvage & Intervention (Sosrep), said there may need to be a temporary closure of the port during an operation to re-float the vessel.
Once re-floated and righted, the ship's integrity would be assessed before it was towed back to port.
He said: "She would remain in position until we were satisfied the vessel was stable before any attempt was made to tow her back."
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.