ALMOST 500 passengers were stranded on a ferry for around three hours after it struck the quay as it approached a major British port and started to let in water, Thames Coastguard said.
The ferry Sirena Seaways, with 489 passengers on board, hit the quay at Parkeston near Harwich in Essex just after midday, but the water it was taking on was “quickly stopped” and it arrived safely at nearby Harwich International Port at 2.45pm.
There are no reported injuries and no reported pollution.
Thames Coastguard was contacted just after midday with reports that Sirena Seaways had been damaged.
At first the vessel was taking on water, but this was soon stopped and the water level was brought under control, the Coastguard said.
The Walton Coastguard Rescue Team, the Harwich RNLI lifeboat, the harbour launch boat, the search and rescue helicopter from RAF Wattisham were sent to the scene, along with a number of other nearby vessels and tugs that went to assist.
At 2.45pm the ferry was brought alongside at Harwich International Port and all of the passengers on board disembarked.
Aimee Rampton, Watch Manager at Thames Coastguard said: “Thames Coastguard assisted Harwich International Port with the co-ordination of this incident.
“We had a very successful outcome today, 489 people onboard and no injuries incurred.”
Sirena Seaways is part of the ferry operator DFDS Seaways which travels to France, Holland and Denmark.
On the company’s website, Sirena Seaways is described as a “modern cruise ship with a real focus on passenger entertainment and comfort” which sails to Denmark.
DFDS Seaways said in a statement: “We can confirm that Sirena Seaways sustained some damage on entering the port at Harwich during today’s scheduled arrival at 12noon UK time.
“This has resulted in the late discharge of the ship. There is no danger to passengers or crew, and we are working hard to disembark the passengers and vehicles from the ferry as quickly as possible.
“We are currently assessing the situation before it is able to resume its service on the Harwich - Esbjerg route.
“We would like to apologise to passengers for any inconvenience caused to their travel plans. We should have further details on the future timings of the service shortly.”
Chief Inspector Nick Lee from Essex Police said: “Essex Police responded to the incident along with other members of the emergency services. We worked closely with DFDS, the Port of Harwich authorities and the coastguard. The boat was redocked and the passengers were able to disembark.”
In an incident report, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters were sent to assist at the scene while the ship’s own crew plugged the hole from inside and built a compartment with water tight doors to stem the leak as part of regular safety precautions.
“The passengers and their vehicles are still on board but in no danger and the vessel will shortly be re-berthed so that they can continue their journey.”
Meanwhile, Terry Jewell, station officer, said: “This is one of the regular ferries that comes into Harwich and as it docked it hit the side of the quay making a hole under the water line.
“The ship is stable now and we are standing by as a precaution while the vessel is moved so that ramps can come down and passengers can leave.
“The ship’s crew worked swiftly to put their safety plans into practice immediately after the accident happened.