Curse of Ever Given strikes Sussex port as another cargo ship goes aground

Located in a small seaside resort on the south coast of England, the harbour of Littlehampton rarely attracts comparisons to major international shipping routes.

But an incident early on Tuesday in the West Sussex town prompted unwelcome echoes of the Ever Given crisis in the Suez Canal, after an 80-metre ship came loose from a mooring and drifted across the channel, becoming solidly grounded across most of the mouth of the River Arun.

At 80 metres, the cargo vessel Elise is dwarfed by the enormous Ever Given at five times its length, which for six days last week was wedged across the Suez Canal, prompting an international shipping crisis. It was finally freed on Monday, allowing the channel to reopen and hundreds of waiting vessels, containing billions of pounds of cargo, to continue on their journeys.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Littlehampton harbour said the Elise had entered the harbour at 1.15am on Tuesday 30 April and was moored by 1.45am, when unloading of its cargo began.

“As the tide fell and she settled on to her mud berth, one of her mooring lines parted at 3.30am. The vessel’s stern then moved out approximately 30 metres into the river before coming to rest on the remaining mooring lines.

“Harbour tug Erica was dispatched to ensure all was stable and harbour staff assisted in putting further lines ashore. The vessel is currently safely grounded along her full length (only further out than usual) with sufficient lines ashore. There is no evidence of damage to the vessel. There has been no pollution or injuries.”

Registered under the flag of Antigua/Barbuda, the 14-year-old Elise was travelling from Antwerp, according to the website Marine Traffic.

Happily, while photographs show the ship at an awkward diagonal angle reminiscent of the much larger vessel, its grounding has not had the same impact, the harbour said, as there was enough room to squeeze past close to the western bank.

Though a 300-metre stretch of the river was closed as the tide rose to protect other users of the river, by 2pm on Tuesday the Elise had been secured back at port and was once again offloading its cargo.

“Using our tug vessels we were able to push her back in,” said deputy harbour master Michael Hayes. “It’s not a major incident, no,” he added.

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