The Mersey Fisher, which carries products including petrol, diesel and kerosene, had been trying to come alongside the tanker berth at La Collette yesterday when the incident happened.
Due to strengthening winds and the ‘manoeuvring characteristics’ of the ship, it began to move towards rocks. The crew – which included a Ports of Jersey marine pilot – decided to abandon the berthing attempt and took the vessel towards the ferry terminal.
People standing on nearby piers and boats looked on as Ports of Jersey’s Halcyon workboat and the Channel Chieftain vessel – which takes national newspapers from Jersey to Guernsey – battled with the ship in an attempt to try to turn it around.
One of those watching, Les Burt, said the ship came very close to the La Collette Yacht Basin rock armour pier, the concrete ‘dolphin’ pillar at the Harbour entrance and the wall of the eastern ferry berth. After around 25 minutes, the vessel eventually motored back out to sea and anchored off the east coast.
The incident follows another earlier this week, when a Liberian-registered cargo ship, anchored in Bouley Bay, issued a mayday call after losing power. At the time, its master was concerned that the strong winds could cause the ship to move. Following a 20-hour operation, it arrived in the Harbour yesterday after being towed by the Duke of Normandy tug.
Harbourmaster Bill Sadler told the JEP that Ports of Jersey would be carrying out an ‘internal review’ of yesterday’s incident. However, he added that, because the decision had been taken to abort the berthing attempt, the ship had not been in danger.
‘When you are in that sort of situation it can be stressful and it can take a long time to manoeuvre a big heavy boat like that, but that is why we have compulsory pilotage for this type of vessel.
‘It is not like a ferry, which has two propellers and bow thrusters – it takes time.’
He added: ‘It is certainly not routine. In terms of how often a tanker aborts its attempt to berth – it probably happens once every couple of years.’
In a statement, a spokesperson for Ports of Jersey said: ‘Due to a combination of the weather conditions and the manoeuvrability characteristics of the vessel, the master and pilot, decided to abort the scheduled arrival into the Harbour on Thursday of the oil tanker vessel, Mersey Fisher.
‘The vessel was assisted in turning in the Elizabeth Harbour turning basin by the Ports of Jersey Halcyon and the Channel Chieftain V and has now proceeded safely to anchor, where she will remain until weather conditions allow her to safely berth as planned in La Collette Tanker Basin.’