The Government and shipping bosses have tonight praised those who have worked on recovering a stranded ship in Southampton water.

It comes as the Hoegh Osaka car transporter will tomorrow be handed over to its grateful owners after successfully berthing in Southampton.

Teams from salvage firm Svitzer are preparing to hand over the 51,000 tonne vessel to owners Hoegh after it docked at berth 101 in the port at 6.15pm tonight.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin congratulated the team who oversaw the operation.​

He said: “I congratulate all those who have worked tirelessly day and night to bring this ship back to port. I would like to pay particular tribute to Hugh Shaw who oversaw the operation, with the help of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, salvage operators, and the pilots and tugs of the port of Southampton.

"They battled exceptionally difficult weather conditions with extraordinary dedication and courage. A full investigation into how the incident occurred is ongoing.” 

And the man in charge of the mammoth operation, which is one of the biggest ever held in the region, echoed his praise and thanked salvors for their “exceptional” work in bringing the ship in and avoiding disaster.

Salvage teams will tonight celebrate their remarkable feat over a beer before continuing hard work tomorrow.

The Secretary of State’s representative for maritime salvage and intervention Hugh Shaw said that crucial work carried out by crews aboard the ship last night was key in meeting the vital weather window this afternoon.

He said: “This operation has been a real team effort. Working on a vessel listing at over 50 degrees is very difficult and without their expertise we wouldn’t have been able to deal with it.

"They have been instrumental in getting safe access and a working platform for the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) to carry out investigations. I would like to thank everyone for their commitment.”


Daily Echo:

Svitzer salvage master Bram Sperling said: “We experienced challenges and difficulties in working conditions but people worked hard and managed to control the situation and get the best procedure.”

He thanked teams who worked overnight on the vessel with very few facilities in preparing it for the move today. He said that the teams were very tired but had a chance to celebrate tonight: “We will have a beer but we need to be in port again at 7am.”

Hoegh head of short sea and logistics Øyvind Ervik said the firm is “extremely grateful that the vessel is now moored."

He said: “we thank everybody involved and we are impressed with the skill of all those involved.

They had spent a short amount of time this evening looking at the vehicles but Øyvind said it was too early to tell what condition they were in.

Øyvind said: “We need to handle the vehicles and get them off the ship and not add insult to injury, then there will be a proper survey to see if the cars can be refitted or whether they will be sold as they are.

There was just a small window of time today when tidal and wind conditions were considered safe enough to raise the ship’s anchor and toe it into Southampton port using four tugs.

Tomorrow owners Hoegh will begin assessing the cargo which is still onboard and discussing what repairs are needed on the ship to see if it can be brought back into service.

Daily Echo:

The Hoegh Osaka's arrival back in port marked the end of a huge operation that lasted almost three weeks.

The 51,000-tonne Singapore-registered vessel, which was carrying a cargo of 1,400 cars and 105 pieces of construction equipment, was beached deliberately on Bramble Bank sandbank, near Southampton, on January 3 after it began listing as it left the Hampshire port.

It floated free from the sandbank on the high tide on January 7 and has since been anchored at a spot two miles (3.2km) east called Alpha Anchorage, near Lee-on-the-Solent.

The operation to salvage the 15-year-old ship has been hampered by heavy winds, which even caused one of the tugs to collide with the vessel during one of the storms.

It was only on completion of the water pumping that salvage firm Svitzer was able to complete ballast management and bring the vessel back to a list of only five degrees. The 591ft (180m) ship listed at 52 degrees as it became stranded on the sandbank.

The condition of the cargo, which includes 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, 65 Mini cars and 105 pieces of JCB construction equipment, is not clear but further inspections are due once the ship has berthed.