The turn of the year proved to be tragic period for the shipping industry with three serious incidents within a week causing at least 19 fatalities. The major fire on board Norman Atlantic (see page 7) was followed by the sudden capsize and sinking with all eight crew – seven Polish nationals and one Filipino – of the 1984-built cement carrier Cemfjord (1,850gt) in the Pentland Firth on 3 January.
The same day, the grounding of the car carrier Hoegh Osaka (2000/51,770gt) in the Solent made the news headlines across the country. The Hoegh Autoliners car carrier was deliberately beached to prevent the ship from capsizing and blocking the channel in and out of one the UK’s busiest ports. The Singapore-flagged vessel was an hour out of port, en route to Germany with around 1,400 cars and 80 pieces of construction equipment, when the drama unfolded.
Although an official MAIB investigation is ongoing, it is thought that a shift in ballast during the sharp turn out of Southampton Water destabilised the vessel so much that there was a danger of her overturning. The Master and Pilot were lauded for their quick actions, which resulted in no serious casualties and no leaks, with the crew of 24 and the pilot safely airlifted off the stricken ship by the Lee-on-Solent-based Coastguard SAR helicopter and RNLI lifeboats. GD