THE eyes of the world were on Falmouth yesterday morning after a Russian ship ran aground in atrocious conditions. 

A huge rescue mission was launched after bulk carrier Kuzma Minin, carrying 18 crew, became stranded on Gyllyngvase Beach just before 6am after dragging its anchor in a southerly gale. 

After more than eight hours, tugs finally freed the 16,000 tonne ship and it headed back to sea just after 2pm, to the relief and joy of everyone involved.

Falmouth Harbour Master Mark Sansom said: "The Kuzma Minin has been taken to Falmouth Bay to anchor, in order for it to be inspected.

"We are now discussing the future of the vessel with the Secretary of State’s Representative (SOSRep) Maritime Salvage & Intervention and the vessel owners.   "HM Coastguard and Devon & Cornwall Police have advised the search and rescue phase of the situation is now over and it is no longer a major incident.  To confirm, there is no evidence of any pollution."

Falmouth RNLI volunteers had earlier battled heavy seas to assist the vessel after the alarm was raised just before 6am.  The lifeboat proceeded to the scene at Gyllyngvase Beach, arriving shortly after 6.20am in a three-metre swell and torrential rain.  The onboard crew was coxswain John Blakeston, Dave Nicoll, Luke Wills, Andy Jenkin, Tom Bird, Jonathan Hackwell and Carl Beardmore.

Police closed the road near the beach and hundreds of onlookers braved the wet and windy weather for a front row seat to watch the drama unfold.

Two tugs and a pilot boat also attended the scene throughout the morning and the coastguard helicopter lowered a winchman, followed by Falmouth pilot Captain Tristan Gurd, on to the stricken ship just after 9am.

The operation to return the ship to sea began in earnest at high tide around 1.15pm.

Tugs attached lines to haul her back into deeper water and with black smoke billowing from the ship's funnel as the engines roared into life, she finally moved off shore just after 2pm.   The Kuzma Minin is a 23,169 tonne bulk carrier ship registered in Russia, which is 180.5m long and 22.9 broad. Her home port is Murmansk, in north west Russia.

Although she was in ballast when she ran aground, she usually carries cargo around northern Europe, including Port Talbot in south Wales.

The single deck ship was built in 1980 in Rostock, Germany.

She was detained in Holland for five months from July until this month, after an inspection unearthed more than 100 defects.

There was also an issue with the crew's wages.

The sailors’ plight became a big local story as the community rallies to help them, having been stuck there since May.

Femke Key, one of the organisers of a local crowdfunding initiative to raise funds for the crew, said she had been overwhelmed by the support.

Key, who said she had visited the ship twice to distribute basic provisions like toothpaste, razors and food to the sailors, said that  the crew had been hesitant to accept the aid at first, but eventually gave in.

“You can see they are proud people and felt ashamed by this situation,” she said.

“But they literally had no food or water left.”