The 20,000-ton Cypriot-registered Rosa M got into trouble off the coast at Barfleur, 15 miles north-east of Cherbourg, when its freight shifted, causing it to lurch dangerously.
The crew took to life-rafts and were eventually winched to safety by British and French rescue helicopters. A passing merchant vessel, the Meleri, also gave assistance.
The ship was said to be listing heavily late last night, but had not yet capsized. Port authority tugs were hoping to tow it into port in the next few hours.