Esbjerg to Harwich ferry out of service after quayside crash

Passengers waited several hours to disembark while ship took on water

Investigations are continuing today into why a DFDS Seaways passenger ferry from Esbjerg carrying almost 500 people crashed into the dock at Harwich, England.

The 489 passengers on the Sirena Seaways were stranded on board for several hours after the ship slammed into a hydraulic boarding ramp at around midday on Saturday.

The impact left a hole beneath the waterline of the 23,000-tonne vessel, which had just completed the 18-hour voyage across the North Sea, and resulted in the ship taking on water and initially listing by five to 10 degrees.

Passengers reported hearing a loud metallic bang and feeling the ship shudder.

The ferry’s crew has been praised for following the correct safety procedures to plug the gap and seal the compartment in the hull with watertight doors. The actions led to the ferry righting itself in the water.

The ferry was brought alongside Harwich International Port and the passengers disembarked safely. There were no reports of injuries or any pollution resulting from the accident.

Speculation by some passengers that high winds during docking caused the accident was downplayed by DFDS.

“We do not yet know the cause of the incident,” company spokesperson Emma Batchelor told UK media. “It will be investigated by us and the Danish maritime authorities because the ship operates under the Danish flag.”

Batchelor said the damage to the ship will keep it out of service until at least next Saturday while it was repaired at a dry dock in Germany.

“There is some damage to the hull in the front of the ship and on the bulb, and unfortunately it could not, as we had hoped, be repaired in the port,” said Batchelor.

She said the ship would be patched up well enough so it can sail to the dry dock, and once repairs there are completed, they will have to be approved before the ship returns to service.

DFDS service between Harwich and Esbjerg is suspended this week. The company is helping passengers find alternative transport – such as travelling on a different route or transferring to another operator – and is also offering reimbursement for cancellations.

A spokesman for the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch said inspectors were carrying out preliminary enquiries into the cause of the incident.