A safety investigation has been launched after a collision between Saga Sky and Stema Barge II during heavy weather in the English Channel.

25 November

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

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.