Dredger aborts entry to harbour to avoid collision

Commercial dredger Arco Dee. Credit: Littlehampton Harbour Board

The Acro Dee a 1,300-tonne, 68-m long, 14-m wide dredger aborted entry into Littlehampton Harbour, UK, avoiding a collision with a yacht.

The vessel had just finished dredging operations off the coast of Littlehampton, consisting of dredging 1,200 tonnes of sand from the seabed earlier in August.

The entry to the harbour was cancelled due to “a number of vessels still attempting to enter or depart the harbour,” commented the Littlehampton Harbour Board, with one sailing yacht in particular “putting itself at significant risk” during the manoeuvring of the Acro Dee, concluded the board.

The sailing yacht made a late entry ahead of the Acro Dee and would not respond to direct attempts of contact on different radio channels. The yacht was also sailing at a slower speed and did not adjust its course despite the blasting of the vessel’s horn ten times.

The dredger in response made a hard turn to the left to avoid collision and re-attempt entry to the harbour. Meanwhile, other ships seized the opportunity to enter and exit the harbour, delaying the new attempt.

Following the incident, Littlehampton Harbour Board issued a statement, saying “Poor decisions made by a minority of vessel skippers risked a potentially very serious incident and made the port closure twice as long as normal.”

The statement concluded, “A number of small vessel skippers have been formally cautioned by the harbour master and further enforcement action is currently pending in some cases.”

Entry of larger vessels into Littlehampton port is a challenge as the entrance is 31 m wide at its narrowest point. There is also a strong tidal stream that pushes vessels sideways on approach, with larger vessels finding only a 50 cm clearance above the seabed in certain areas.