Ferry salvage bill may run to millions

Stena Challenger accident: Port authorities and owners of ship wrangle over cause of beaching that left 172 stranded

The salvage bill for the Stena Challenger, which was pulled off a sandbank near Calais on Wednesday night, could reach seven figures, according to sources within the industry.

The amount which Stena will have to pay is likely to be determined finally by arbitration but yesterday a more immediate row was brewing with the port authorities over the cause of the incident, which left passengers stranded for a day on the ship.

At a press conference yesterday morning, Stena managers implied that the incident had been caused by port authority controllers who dictate movements in and out of Calais. Stena said the Challenger had been made to wait outside the entrance channel in atrocious conditions just before it ran aground.

While the company refused to discuss the cause of the accident, the comments suggest that the ship lost steerage when it slowed and was carried on to the beach by the following tide and winds of more 40 knots. The ship had to wait while the 28,000 tonne Pride of Burgundy, belonging to rival firm P&O and 10,000 tonnes heavier, made its departure.

The ferry, with 172 passengers and 73 crew, ran aground in an on-shore force eight gale about one mile from the harbour entrance. The first attempt to pull the ship off the beach at high tide failed, but the second, by a larger ocean-going tug on Wednesday night, ended the passengers' frustrating ordeal.

But Gerard Barron, a spokesman for the port authority, was adamant that the ship should have had no difficulty holding its position, even in the heavy sea conditions.

"This procedure is completely normal," he said. "It happens every day. We have 100 ships and 30 hovercraft entering and leaving but we do not have accidents every day. It is totally ridiculous. A ship like the Challenger should be able to stay in position for 24 hours." Mr Barron said he still believed that there had been some loss of power to the engine which must have caused the ferry to run aground, though he hinted that human error could have compounded the problem. "A boat or machine is never entirely responsible in these kind of cases," he said.

Stena, however, ruled out technical failure as a possible cause of the incident, although it was revealed yesterday that the Challenger missed two sailings on Tuesday while its bow doors were repaired, though this had no bearing on the drama which began at 10.30 that night.

Gareth Cooper, the company's managing director, said the captain of 20 years' experience, whom he refused to name, had not been suspended pending the outcome of the inquiry whose conclusions would take two to three weeks to emerge after logs and electronic data had been analysed and crew interviewed.

Divers inspected the ship yesterday morning and discovered no structural damage. It was being sailed to Dunkirk later in the day and was to be put in dry dock for further tests .

The negotiation over the cost of salvage, organised by the French company Les Abeilles which has a tug on permanent stand-by in the Channel on the request of the French government, is likely to last several months.

If Stena, or rather its insurers, and the salvors cannot agree, then the matter will be settled by an arbitrator, an eminent QC.

Leading article, Page 16

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash