A car carrier stranded next to a busy shipping lane was grounded deliberately to prevent it from capsizing, its owners have said.
The 51,000 tonne Hoegh Osaka became stricken on the Bramble Bank between Southampton and the Isle of Wight last night 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 had leaked from the vessel and preventing any environmental impact was his key priority.
He said: “Our vessel Hoegh Osaka is currently grounded at Bramble Bank in the Solent outside the port of Southampton. 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.”