Cargo ship blocks River Arun in Littlehampton: what we know so far

A large vessel has become beached in Littlehampton, blocking the River Arun.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 4:44 pm
Updated Monday, 21st September 2020, 7:30 am

The cargo ship MV Elise was stretched across the river shortly before 4pm today (September 18).

According to Littlehampton harbour master Harry Gregory, some of the mooring lines keeping the ship at its berth 'parted', causing it to slip away and rotate across the river.

Due to it being low tide, the 80m-long ship then became beached in this position, near the Arun View Pub in Wharf Road.

The cargo ship Elise is currently blocking the River Arun. Picture: Robert Boyce

The harbour master said they had their tug and safety boats on scene, the vessel's anchor was down and it still had a line onshore.

"Everything is stationary and stable, and we have crews in place doing what needs to be done," he said.

When the tide comes back in and refloats the vessel, he said they would rotate the MV Elise back into a safe position at its berth.

He anticipated this would be at 8 or 9pm.

The MV Elise is blocking the River Arun. Picture: Robert Boyce

No-one has been injured as a result of the incident, he said.

"Our main concern will be any damage to the vessel causing pollution, but at this time there is nothing of this nature", he said.

"Oil spill teams and assets are on standby."

He said the incident had only 'inconvenienced two kayakers' so far and added that river users were getting regular safety updates through the harbour radio channels and the safety boats were giving advice to the public at the scene when needed.

The MV Elise is blocking the River Arun. Picture: Robert Boyce

When Robert Boyce heard what was happening on the harbour radio channels, the owner of Littlehampton Shipyard and Littlehampton Yacht Club went down to the scene and could not believe his eyes.

Earlier this afternoon, he said: "She is completely blocking the river, east and west, which means I don't know how they will get the vessel alongside.until the tide changes."

He said it appeared that cargo had been removed from the vessel - but at that time feared the vessel could be seriously damaged by the incident.

"It could be an unfolding disaster as we speak", he said.

The MV Elise is blocking the River Arun. Picture: Robert Boyce

Nansi Davies and Steve Frost were doing work to their boat, The Crusader, nearby when they suddenly saw the vessel blocking the river.

"It isn't affecting us at the moment, but people will be arriving on their boats because it is the perfect weather to go to The Black Rabbit [in Arundel] and I think they won't be going anywhere," Nansi said, shortly after the incident happened.

She saw the kayakers who had been affected, and said they had to get out and drag their vessels through the mud to get past.

Regarding the Elise itself, she said: "I don't think it's going anywhere. They have the anchor down, and everybody is here that should be here. People are crawling all over it, they are trying to do their best."

An online marine traffic service said the MV Elise left Antwerp, Belgium, on September 13, flying under the flag of Antigua Barbuda.

According to the Littlehampton Harbour Facebook page, the MV Elise had already tried to enter the harbour several times, cancelling an attempt yesterday due to the tide.

It said today's entry - planned for 12.45pm - had been a success, prior to what happened.

At 11.30pm on Friday the harbour provided an update, confirming the vessel had been successfully refloated.