More than 1,200 luxury cars, including Jaguars and a Rolls-Royce Wraith worth at least £35 million ($53 million USD), could be scrapped after the cargo ship transporting them ran aground in the Solent.
The Hoegh Osaka vehicle carrier was deliberately run aground on a sandbank between Southampton and the Isle of Wight, on Saturday night to prevent it capsizing after it began listing dangerously.
The ship was carrying 1,200 Jaguar sports cars and Land Rover 4x4s, 65 BMW Minis, 105 JCB diggers and a single Rolls-Royce Wraith – worth an estimated £260,000 – all destined for the Middle East.
After a similar incident in the North Pacific in 2006, more than 4,700 brand new Mazdas were scrapped after the car transporter carrying them, the Cougar Ace, developed a 60-degree list off the coast of Alaska.
The cars were salvaged and had no visible damage but the manufacturer scrapped them in case to avoid potential legal action in the event of future road accidents.
A BMW spokesman told The Times that the 65 Minis on the Höegh Osaka were insured but suggested that they could still be sold if only minor repairs were needed.
“We’ll have to see what their condition is once the salvage company gets inside the hold,” he added.
A salvage operation could take “weeks or months”, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) said, and would not even begin in earnest for several days as strong winds would make conditions too rough to work.
Salvage workers boarded the 51,000 – ton vessel, which is listing at about 50 degrees, on Monday, as the ship became a tourist attraction with car parks along the coast filling up with sightseers.
Experts said the ship would need to be anchored to prevent it slipping further down the sandbank during the high winds. Salvage workers will then attempt to right the ship and refloat it as soon as possible.
Alex Davis, partner and head of the casualty response team at the shipping law firm Stephenson Harwood, said: “Time is the enemy here; the longer the vessel is aground, the more likely she is to become further damaged and to deteriorate. They will be looking to move as fast as is technically possible.”
Mr Davis added: “You are unlikely to be buying the Jaguars after this.”
He said the likely causes of the ship listing were cargo shifting, water getting in, or both.
Rod Johnson, marine manager at Stephenson Harwood and former chief coastguard, said the vessel would be likely to require a technique known as “parbuckling” to right it.
“Parbuckling is good old – fashioned grunt: you attach the cables to the ship in the appropriate position and pull,” he said. “It won’t float until it’s upright because if you try to float it while it’s lying on its side, water will simply move up the low side of the ship and pour in through open hatchways and vent pipes and the ship will capsize.”
Floating cranes may be anchored next to the ship and used to winch it upright. The weight of the cargo would have to be redistributed and water pumped out to prevent the ship listing again, before it could be refloated using tug boats.
The Hoegh Osaka had not long set sail when it ran into trouble, after which the 24 crew members and a pilot were taken to safety by Coastguard helicopter and RNLI lifeboats. Two people suffered nonlife threatening injuries and were taken to hospital. No fuel has leaked.
Hugh Shaw, the Secretary Of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, said there would be no “quick fix”.
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