LONDON — Seen from some angles, tilting at a crazy angle in shallow water, it might almost resemble a huge plaything discarded by capricious giants.
Since the weekend, a 57,000-ton, 590-foot car transporter, the Hoegh Osaka, has been aground on Bramble Bank, a well-marked sandbank off the British port of Southampton, beached deliberately by its crew to prevent the vessel from capsizing after it began to list Saturday.
The crew was then plucked to safety by rescue ships and a helicopter, the British maritime authorities said.
The sight of the leviathan lying low has drawn crowds on the shoreline and in small boats, as well as speculation as much about the vessel as about its cargo: heavy construction equipment and 1,400 cars, mostly high-end, bound for Germany.
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Its fate offered a counterpoint to that of another ship that encountered trouble in British waters over the weekend, the Cyprus-registered Cemfjord, a 272-foot bulk-cement carrier that capsized and sank during a violent storm off northern Scotland.
Rescuers said Monday that they were no longer searching for the Cemfjord’s eight-person crew. The cause of the sinking was not known, the ship’s operators said.
How the Singapore-registered Hoegh Osaka came to its current resting place, by contrast, was a tale of maritime resourcefulness in the face of looming disaster, at least as described by Ingar Skiaker, the chief executive of the ship’s owner, Hoegh Autoliners.
“Our vessel developed a severe list shortly after she left port, and the pilot and the master took the decision to save the vessel and its crew by grounding her on the bank,” Skiaker told reporters. “This showed great skill and seamanship on behalf of our crew when faced with such challenging circumstances.”
“Right now we have serious work ahead of us in order to free the vessel from the Bramble Bank without disrupting the flow of traffic in and out of the port of Southampton,” he said Sunday.
By Monday, the ship was said to be canted at an angle of more than 50 degrees. Of the cars in its hold, around 1,200 were made by Jaguar Land Rover, which manufactures sport utility vehicles and sports cars, the company said.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce, Andrew Ball, said the company had one car — a model known as the Wraith, which sells for more than $375,000 — on the vessel. Matthew Reed, a spokesman for Bentley Motors, said that none of his company’s models were on board.
“Our chief concern now is to ensure there is no environmental damage from this incident,” Skiaker said. “There is no oil spill reported at this point. However we understand that the U.K. authorities have brought their spill response to a state of active readiness.”
Bramble Bank lies alongside a busy shipping route on the Solent, the channel between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. It is better known to nonmariners as the site of an annual cricket game, when low tides expose it long enough for a quick bat and bowl.
The British authorities said it was too early to say what caused the ship to start listing as it set sail Saturday night. Nick Ridehalgh, head of the Associated British Ports in Southampton, told BBC radio that the crew’s action had beached it in as “safe a position as possible.”