Hoegh OsakaThe stricken Höegh Osaka has been successfully towed to berth 101 at the Port of Southampton.

After being stranded for nearly three weeks, the vessel is now safely moored, after a large operation in difficult conditions to reduce the listing to around five degrees, and remove around 3,000 tonnes of water from inside the ship.

Although a lot of work remains, no-one was injured during the incident, no pollution occurred, and traffic around the port has mainly remained uninterrupted. 

The 1,400 vehicles – including 1,200 Jaguar and Land Rovers, 65 Minis, one Rolls Royce Wraith, and 105 JCB units – onboard will now need to be assessed. In a press conference on Thursday evening, Øyvind Ervik, head of short sea and logistics at Höegh said that although they had quickly inspected the vehicles, it is currently too early to make decisions. “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,” he said. 

In a statement, Höegh said that the cause of the accident is under investigation by the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch, but that the company is also keen to learn the cause and is holding its own investigation. 

Over the coming days, the vessel will be inspected to ensure it is safe for surveyors to board, before beginning to remove the cargo. Höegh said that it is currently too early to give an exact date when this can begin. The ship itself will also be assessed to see what repairs are needed and whether it can return to service.

Salvaging the Osaka

After the vessel refloated itself on January 7th, it was tugged a little over three kilometres east to Alpha Anchorage. Adverse weather conditions made the salvage operation difficult, and one of the tugs crashed into the vessel.

However, with a break in the weather, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency announced that the vessel was stable and salvors Svitzer managed to reduce the list from an initial 52 degrees, to 25 degrees. 

After removing water, Svitzer used the ship’s ballast system to reduce the list further, to five degrees.

The journey to Southampton Port took around four hours on January 22nd. Four tugs helped to move the ship, and the ship’s master and two pilots assisted Svitzer during the operation. A Restricted Airspace (Temporary) was placed one mile either side of the route to provide safety and ensure no other vessels disrupted the operation.