A GIANT car transporter became grounded in the Solent after "shortcuts" were taken by senior crew members, a new report reveals today.

The Hoegh Osaka was grounded on Bramble Bank just hours after it left Southampton, sparking a major recovery operation.

And now a report says the 51,000 tonne vessel departed the Port of Southampton with its crew unaware of its "inadequate stability", meaning it did not meet international minimum requirements.

The vessel left the port shortly after 8pm on January 3 last year, headed for Bremerhaven in Germany.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report says the ship's master telephoned the chief officer to say it did "not feel right" minutes at 8.25pm.

It completed the Calshot turn without issue, but by 9.10pm it had developed a "serious list", causing the crew to call for assistance.

The ship's lights went out and some of the cargo shifted, puncturing a hole in its side before the vessel drifted into Bramble Bank at about 9.15pm.

One crew member who had been off-duty and in a cabin broke his arm and leg after falling 18 metres as the vessel continued to list, while several others received minor injuries.

The 24 crew members were all rescued within hours with some jumping overboard when they saw the RNLI lifeboat approach.

But 1,450 luxury Jaguars, Land Rovers, Minis and a Rolls Royce as well as other cars and 105 pieces of heavy plant machinery remained on board the vessel, which was listing at 40° or more in the Solent.

Pictures taken by inspectors have shown the damage caused when cars and heavy machinery crashed into each other after the vessel was grounded.

Of the 1450 vehicles on board 323 were damaged and 52 written off, while of 183 pieces of heavy machinery 28 were written off as losses.

Daily Echo:

The vessel floated free from the bank on January 7 before being towed to Anchor Anchorage off Lee-on-the-Solent and eventually back to the Port of Southampton.

The MAIB's report says the ship heeled heavily to starboard "as a result of having departed port with inadequate stability", with upper vehicle decks full while the lower ones were "lightly" loaded.

The vessel had been due to load cargo in Hamburg and Bremerhaven before ending in Southampton, but the itinerary changed so it began in Southampton instead.

However the plans to arrange cargo were not altered and meant that most vehicles were stored on the upper decks, meaning it had a high centre of gravity, while the port captain responsible for loading the cargo did not involve the chief officer in the operation.

It says that "the ship’s overall centre of gravity was relatively high", while it was "most likely that the cargo shifted due to the ship’s excessive list and was not causal to the accident."

It added that that while cargo shifting was not believed to have caused the loss of stability, some vehicles were not secured up to standards.

The report says the weight of vehicles on board was underestimated by 265 tonnes, while the crew only used estimates of ballast, leading the chief officer to "assume a ballast condition for Hoegh Osaka’s departure that bore no resemblance to reality".

The report continues: "This investigation has identified that, at least since joining Hoegh Osaka, the chief officer’s regard for the above principles [to accurately calculate stability] had diminished to the extent that he considered it unnecessary to maintain an accurate record of ballast water distribution, to actively pursue and update his knowledge of the cargo to be loaded, and to use the loading computer to best effect by entering the VCG (centre of gravity) of cargo above the deck."

Daily Echo:

It adds: "Important checklist items, such as ensuring cargo was properly secured and that stability was properly assessed, were lost among a large number of minor tasks."

Steve Clinch, chief inspector of marine accidents said: “The MAIB’s investigation found that Hoegh Osaka’s stability did not meet the minimum international requirements for ships proceeding to sea.

"The cargo loading plan had not been adjusted for a change to the ship’s usual journey pattern and the number of vehicles due to be loaded according to the pre stowage plan was significantly different from than that of the final tally.

"The estimated weight of cargo was also less than the actual weight. Crucially, the assumed distribution of ballast on board, bore no resemblance to reality, which resulted in the ship leaving Southampton with a higher centre of gravity than normal.

“This accident is a stark reminder of what can happen when shortcuts are taken in the interest of expediency.

"It is therefore imperative that working practices adopted by the car carrier industry ensure that there is always sufficient time and that accurate data is available on completion of cargo operations to enable the stability of such vessels to be properly calculated before departure.”

The MAIB has recommended that ship owners Hoegh Autoliners Shipping Pte ensure senior ship crew are involved in planning how cargo is stowed and ensuring weights are accurately recorded and not just estimated.

The organisation has also issued advice for all shipowners , saying: "Assessing a ship has adequate stability for its intended voyage on completion of cargo operations and before it sails is a fundamental principle of seamanship that must not be neglected.

"Sufficient time must be made before departure for an accurate stability calculation to be completed."

Both Hoegh Autoliners and ship managers Wallem Shipmanagement Pte Ltd have taken action to ensure crews meet standards to check cargo weights, ballast levels and ensure data is accurately collected.