The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has published a safety investigation report into the collision between Saga Sky and Stema Barge II during heavy weather in the English Channel

15 March 2018

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published a report of the investigation into the collision between cargo ship Saga Sky and Stema Barge II.

The two boats collided near the port of Dover on 20 November 2016 during Storm Angus.

There were no injuries and despite significant hull damage, both vessels remained afloat.

The MAIB investigation found that despite several prompts from the Coastguard, Saga Sky’s anchors were not deployed quickly enough to prevent the collision. The Admiralty chart that was used to determine the anchor position for Stema Barge II was out of date. The position of the anchor was directly above one of the subsea cables of Interconnector France-Angleterre 1. The report says: “That this passed through the complete planning process for the sea defence work questions the level of focus on navigational safety”.

The report states that a review of emergency towage provision in the Dover Strait would be appropriate, due to the volume of vessel traffic in the Strait and the absence of local commercial salvage assets.



The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have been recommended to commission a study to review the full range of emergency response assets available in the Dover Strait area, including a reassessment of the need for a dedicated emergency towing capability.

Furthermore, in conjunction with the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have been recommended  to justify the need for regulatory powers which could be applied, where appropriate to ensure vessels comply with the International Hydrographic Organization recommendations with respect to anchoring in the vicinity of submarine cables.

The Marine Management Organisation have been recommended to improve their marine licence application process by:

  • highlighting precisely what activities the particular marine licence is to cover, including any specified risks to be assessed in the submission.
  • clearly stipulating a requirement that the latest nautical publications are referred to in the submission.
  • ensuring that its primary advisors are clear on the objectives of their respective reviews and the elements of the application they are required to assess.

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office have been recommended to adopt the International Hydrographic Organization’s recommendation for responsible authorities to set a minimum distance, nominally 0.25nm, from submarine cable, within which ships should avoid anchoring or conducting other underwater activities.

Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Ltd have been recommended to enhance their shipboard procedures by developing vessel-specific guidance that its masters can refer to in order to estimate the effect forecast heavy weather conditions could have on their ships’ manoeuvrability.


25 November 2016

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has announced that it has started a safety investigation into the collision between two boats in the English Channel.

The cargo ship, Saga Sky, hit the anchored Stema Barge II in heavy weather on 20 November 2016.

The accident happened close to the port of Dover.

The UK Coastguard evacuated all non-essential crew, there were no injuries and despite significant hull damage, both vessels remained afloat.

The French emergency towing vessel Abeille Languedoc stood by during the later stages of the incident.

Saga Sky had discharged a cargo of wood pulp in Brake, Germany and was sailing in ballast to Uruguay.

The vessel entered the Dover Strait traffic separation scheme early on the morning of 20 November.

“As the weather rapidly deteriorated, with wind speeds in excess of 80 knots, the vessel’s speed dropped and it began to pitch heavily,” said the MAIB.

“The propeller came out of the water causing the engine to overspeed and shut down. Saga Sky’s engine was restarted and the vessel was manoeuvred out of the traffic lane.”

“However, it then began to drift rapidly towards shallow water. Both anchors were deployed but this failed to arrest the drift.”

Saga Sky collided with Stema Barge II at about 0840.

The collision resulted in significant damage to both vessels.

When the weather abated and, following a stability assessment and redistribution of ballast, Saga Sky was able to proceed safely to Dunkirk for assessment.


21 November 2016

Volunteer crew of the RNLI Dover and Dungeness all-weather lifeboats, City of London II and the Morrell, received a request to launch at 8.50am on Sunday 20 November.

The UK Coastguard had had been alerted that a cargo vessel had collided with a stone barge three miles south west of Dover.

rnli lifeboats go to aid of Saga Sky cargo ship

The stricken Saga Sky. Credit: RNLI/Mark Hamilton

Two Coastguard search and rescue helicopters were also in attendance to the vessel which had reported engine and steering failure. The craft had also damaged its hull in the collision with the rock barge and had started taking on water as a result.

The cargo vessel had drifted onto the Varne Bank with 23 people on board due to the poor weather conditions.

The Coastguard helicopter assisted the people on board. They evacuated 11 of the 23 crew from the vessel, winching them off and taking them to Dover whilst the RNLI lifeboats were closely monitoring the situation out on the water and were ready to assist when needed.

The remaining 12 people that were on board are working towards getting the vessel moving with the aid of a tug.

RNLI Dover, Deputy 2nd Coxswain Robert Bendhiaf, said: “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 manor 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.”

RNLI Dover was stood down at 1.50pm and RNLI Dungeness at 3.39pm. The cargo vessel is now in a safe anchorage at Dungeness.