A major incident was declared when a cargo ship lost power and steering and began taking on water after colliding with a rock barge, off the coast of Dover.

Challenging weather conditions meant the Saga Sky cargo vessel then drifted onto the Varne Bank.

The collision occurred near Samphire Hoe and was reported to the UK Coastguard around 7.20am yesterday morning, 20 November.

Two Coastguard helicopters from Lydd and Lee-on-Solent were sent to evacuate crew members from the 200m-cargo vessel, which had 23 people on board.

Credit Dover RNLI crewman Lee Hand

Credit: Dover RNLI crewman Lee Hand

Dover and Dungeness all-weather lifeboats, and Deal and Dover Coastguard Rescue Teams were put on standby to help receive crew members rescued from the vessel.

Eleven of the 23 people on board were winched off and taken to Dover. The other 12 remained on board as the Saga Sky and worked to get the vessel moving with the aid of a tug.

Duty commander Steve Carson described the weather conditions as ‘particularly challenging’. He said yesterday: ‘We have declared this a major incident.’

Saga Sky is now in a safe anchorage at Dungeness.

Inspectors, including one from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency were sent to the Saga Sky to assess the damage before the vessel was moved.

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s counter-pollution officer and duty surveyor, as well as the Secretary of State’s Representative Maritime and Salvage liaised with the UK Coastguard and the crew on the ship. There is no indication of pollution.

Credit Dover RNLI crewman Lee Hand

Credit: Dover RNLI crewman Lee Hand

RNLI Dover, deputy second coxswain Robert Bendhiaf, said yesterday: ‘Facing Force 11-12 weather conditions today was one of the biggest jobs for myself as one of the youngest coxswains Dover lifeboat station has historically had.
‘I’m very proud of all the RNLI volunteer crew members I had on board with me for maintaining a calm and professional manner in such rough seas during today’s operation.
‘It’s not often we work alongside multi agencies but today showed how well our RNLI lifeboat stations can operate with each other and other SAR units.’