Massive Russian cargo ship re-floated off Cornish coast at high tide

A 16,000-tonne Russian cargo ship that ran aground off the Cornish coast has been re-floated during high tide.

The Kuzma Minin grounded off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth at about 5.40am on Tuesday, in what was described as “extreme” and “horrific” weather.

Eyewitnesses said the vessel, which had 18 Russian crew on board and was not carrying any cargo, had been successfully re-floated on Tuesday afternoon.

Russian cargo ship runs aground
(PA Graphics)

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Devon and Cornwall Police declared a “major incident”.

Video footage released by the MCA shows winchman Niall Hanson being lowered down to the ship in 60mph winds.

Witnesses have taken pictures of the boat close to the shore and the incident comes after the Met Office issued a yellow warning of severe weather with 65mph winds forecast.

WATCH #HMCoastguard Winchman Niall Hanson, being lowered down to the #KuzmaMinin to assist the Harbour Pilot onboard. Seas remain rough with 60mph winds. Everyone #allsafe however Newquay Coastguard helicopter remains on standby. An attempt to refloat will be made later today. pic.twitter.com/WCS92nkOFs

— Maritime&Coastguard (@MCA_media) December 18, 2018

Nigel Kitto, who lives locally, praised the work of the lifeboat and helicopter teams operating in “horrific” conditions.

“The helicopter and lifeboat have been going in and out and it’s incredible to see – the skill of the helicopter pilot,” he said.

Kuzma Minin cargo ship grounded in Falmouth
The Kuzma Minin ran aground off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth (Ben Birchall/PA)

“The helicopter is going sideways here against the wind and struggling a bit.

“It’s amazing to watch but there are people on board so fingers crossed that everyone gets back to shore OK.”

The efforts to rescue sailors from the beached tanker come on the eve of the 37th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

Penlee disaster
Names of the men who died in the Penlee lifeboat disaster of 1981 (Barry Batchelor/PA)

The 1981 tragedy, which occurred in nearby Penzance, claimed the lives of 16 people in similar circumstances.

“There are dangerous rocks down there and this brings up memories for everyone, I imagine,” Mr Kitto added.

The vessel ran aground in "extreme" and "horrific" weather (Nigel Kitto/PA)
The vessel ran aground in ‘extreme’ and ‘horrific’ weather (Nigel Kitto/PA)

Falmouth resident Jess Hughes described this morning’s weather on the Cornish coast as “extreme”.

“As you come over the crest of the hill there’s just this huge ship where there shouldn’t be,” she told the Press Association.

“Last night it was horrendously windy and now there’s gravel up by the road so it was a good high tide,” she added.

Tug boats help the Kuzma Minin re-float during high tide (Ben Birchall/PA).
Tug boats help the Kuzma Minin re-float during high tide (Ben Birchall/PA).

As the rescue operation was under way in Cornwall, the emergency services in Scotland were dealing with six lorries overturning on a P&O Ferries sailing at Cairnryan ferry terminal, in Wigtownshire.

No one is reported to have been injured in the incident, and Police Scotland said all 52 passengers and 56 crew on board are safe and well.