SCORES of people watched from the promenade as the stricken car carrier Hoegh Osaka was towed back into port.
Four tugs took just over three hours to tow the 51,000-ton ship back into Southampton Port from off Lee-on-the-Solent after salvors reduced its list to five degrees.
Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention, last night praised the ‘skill and professionalism’ of all parties involved in the recovery of the vessel, including salvors Svitzer.
He told a press conference ‘It has been a real team effort – working with a vessel listing over 50 degrees is very complex and I pay tribute to the salvors.’
He added: ‘The biggest moment for me was getting her back to 15 degrees, not that I ever doubted the salvors. Everything they said from day one they have delivered, we had that confidence in them.
‘If they hadn’t got on board and found the crack in the hull and repaired it we would have been looking at a much worse situation.
‘It has probably been one of the easiest jobs I have done because of the co-operation between all the parties. The speed of reaction is the key to saving a vessel.’
It took almost three weeks to pump out enough water to reduce the listing of the ship to make it safe to move.
Late yesterday afternoon people lined the seafront at Lee-on-the-Solent to see the hazy outline of the carrier move across the Solent.
Alison King, 62, of Dean Gardens, Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘I’ve been following it closely and I came to watch it being hoisted up.
‘I was lucky enough to see the water being drained from it the other day.
‘You could see it very well then. It’s a shame it’s so hazy now.
‘In the end it had to be done. It couldn’t stay there forever.’
And James Carter, 77, travelled all the way from Southbourne, in West Sussex with a group of friends to witness the spectacle.
He said: ‘Once we heard they were going to move it we wanted to come and have a look.
‘I’m not particularly interested in boats but this was exciting.’
The Hoegh Osaka has 1,400 cars and 105 pieces of construction equipment and was beached deliberately on Bramble Bank sandbank, near Southampton on January 3 after it started listing.