Ship runs aground near Cornwall's Pendeen lighthouse

The Karin Schepers freed itself after running aground off the coast of west Cornwall. Video: RNLI

A container ship has freed itself after running aground off the coast of west Cornwall.

The 9,000-tonne Karin Schepers ran aground on a beach east of the Pendeen lighthouse, near St Just, at about 04:45 BST, coastguards said.

The vessel, with 13 crew on board, was sailing from Cork in the Republic of Ireland to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It has resumed its course.

The ship's German owners said they were investigating the incident.

Police, RNLI and coastguard search teams were called in to assist.

A rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose was also sent to the scene, arriving at about 05:10.

But by the time it had arrived, the crew of the 141m (463ft) Antigua and Barbuda-registered vessel had managed to get the vessel free from the sand.

No mayday

A member of the helicopter crew was winched on to the vessel to ascertain the condition of the vessel and its crew. Those on board were found to be uninjured.

Steve Huxley, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said it was "extremely lucky" that the vessel managed to get off the sand "very, very quickly".

He said that before the grounding the vessel had been recorded heading to land at about 17 or 18 knots, but that it did not send out a mayday or make any emergency radio call.

He said: "At this stage we're not sure why the ship ran aground.

Karin Schepers. Pic: Royal Navy A helicopter from RNAS Culdrose saw the Karin Schepers free itself from the shore

"It could have been very nasty, but there was no pollution whatsoever; and we had a report from the vessel afterwards reporting it was fully seaworthy."

Coastguards in Falmouth said an investigation was to be carried out and they had been in contact with Dutch maritime authorities.

They added that ship surveyors were to meet the vessel in Rotterdam to examine it and interview the crew.

The ship's owner, German-based company HS Schiffahrks GmbH Co KG, said that the ship did not go aground at any stage and merely got close to the shore.

The company added that one its representatives would question the crew when the ship docked at Rotterdam on Thursday and it was not commenting any further until it had investigated the incident.

Previous grounding

The vessel has run aground in Europe before.

A Danish Maritime Agency investigation was carried out when the ship ran aground in a strait between a Danish island and the southern Swedish province of Scania in March 2009.

The investigation found that the chief officer was incapacitated due to intoxication and had fallen asleep during his watch.

It also found that there was no look-out on the bridge and the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System was off.

Also, no crew members reacted to attempts to draw attention to the dangerous path the ship was taking.

However, there is no suggestion that this had any relation to the Cornwall grounding or that it was the same crew.

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