Salvers are now on board Hoegh Osaka as storm abates

Salvers are now on board Hoegh Osaka as storm abates

Hoegh Osaka salvers from Svitzer have finally boarded the stranded ship carrying 1,300 vehicles today (15 January) after gale force winds last night forced operations to halt, with a possible tow date back to Southampton Port of the middle of next week.

A helicopter and three tugs are available to move the 17-strong salver crew onto the 51,000t carship and although it is not yet clear how the men were transferred, news of their presence should accelerate any update on the condition of the Jaguar Land Rover, Mini, Rolls-Royce and JCB vehicles.

The crew will now attempt to pump out the 3,000t of water which poured into the vessel after moving machinery cracked the side, at which point helicopter winching will become essential as the rising ship makes conventional access impossible.

"We got through the blow last night," a spokesman for Hoegh Osaka owners, Hoegh Autoliners, told just-auto. "Weather at the moment is five degrees [Celsius and] clear blue skies. The wind will pick up tonight to 40mph and 50mph.

"If it all goes well, I would look to the middle part of next week possibly, but nobody is willing to suggest that date yet. Nobody is guaranteeing anything, but if it continues at the pace we expect, then hopefully the middle of next week the salvers can get on and [manoeuvre] the ship back into port."

Should the ship eventually return to Southampton from which it only briefly left on 3 January before developing a severe list, the issue will be finding space for the giant vessel in what is the UK's busiest automotive transit point.

"They [salvers] want to get on with it," a Svitzer spokesman told just-auto. "It is their bread and butter, this is what they do. To us it may be quite dramatic [helicopter winching], but it is not the most difficult one.

"When the salver is done, the owner takes over, it is their ship, their responsibility for everything including the cargo."

A key question remains as to the enormous cost in stationing so many key players including, crew, tug boats and the helicopter near Southampton, as well as the services of the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the Secretary of State Representative for Salvage and Maritime Intervention.

This is before even any consideration is given to the ship repair itself and the 1,300 vehicles, with most parties preferring to remain quiet on the financial implication of such a major incident.

"Obviously we will talk with the dealers," a JCB spokesman told just-auto. "We won't walk away from it, we won't do that at all.

"It [cargo] run into millions of pounds. We need to establish what sort of condition the cargo is in."

JLR was not immediately available for comment.