Solent ship grounded: Loose JCB 'punched a hole' in side of listing ship

Engineers believe the digger caused a hole and a leak on the sixth deck, which has been fixed

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The Independent Online

Salvage engineers now believe that a loose JCB on board the grounded Hoegh Osaka ship managed to punch a hole into the side of the listing ship’s hull, which has since been repaired.

The 51-tonne ship was deliberately grounded by the captain on a sandbank known as the Bramble Bank between Southampton and the Isle of Wight on Saturday after the ship began to list shortly after setting sail from the Hampshire port.

The captain and pilot have been praised for their swift decision to take emergency action to beech the ship in order to prevent it from capsizing. It prompted a major rescue operation involving the 24 members of the ship’s crew and a pilot taken to safety by coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboats.

It had been hoped the Hoegh Osaka, which was carrying more than 1,400 cars and 105 pieces of construction equipment, could be reflaoted, but salvage experts Svitzer have since ruled this out after an examination of this ship showed it had taken on too much water that would then take too long to remove before a weather window for the operation closes.

The ship’s cargo includes 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, 65 Minis and 105 pieces of JBC construction equipment.

Salvors are still continuing their assessment of the ship and there are no specific reports into the condition of the cargo, but Hoegh Autoliners, which owns the vessel, understands that most of the cargo is still in position as originally stowed and is held in place by the lashings. Not all decks have yet been accessed.

A spokesperson for Hoegh Autoliners said: “There has been some water ingress resulting from a small crack in the hull which is reported to have been caused by one cargo item that has shifted. This crack has now been repaired.

“The focus is now for the salvors to collect the relevant information to prepare for a safe salvage operation with minimal disruption to the port and the environment.”

The 180m 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, while the vessel’s 500 tonnes of fuel is also being kept on board to prevent any leakage while attempting to move it.

Additional reporting by Press Association