Thursday, 23 April 2020

Drivers drown in ferry tragedy (1982): The Townsend Thoresen

The 1982 European Gateway tragedy off Felixstowe and Harwich ...

Originally printed on the
25th december 1982

PRE-CHRISTMAS tragedy struck the international haulage industry this week when a North Sea ferry sank outside Harwich, drowning six men, two of them lorry drivers.

The Townsend Thoresen 4,263 ton European Gateway, on the freight-only Felixstowe-Rotterdam crossing, was struck by the 5,000 ton Sealink rail ferry Speed/ink Vanguard on its way from Zeebrugge to Harwich late on Sunday night, and sank after 10 minutes.

Of the 34 lorry drivers on board, five were Dutch, the rest British. The drivers who were drowned were George Heath, of Peel Hall, Manchester, and Graham Welton, of Swinhope Lodge Grimsby. Four crewmen were also lost.

The vessel settled on a sandbank near the point of the collision, and is partially above water. Two Dutch divers were expected to start surveying the wreck on Tuesday to establish whether the vessel can be salvaged. A spokesman for European Ferries, Townsend Thoresen's parent company, said that it will be left to the insurance company to establish compensation for the lorries which are in the ship.


Ferry took over the midday sailing from Felixstowe. It has similar capacity to the Gateway. The ferry Syria, chartered while Townsend's Baltic Ferry is in the Falkland Islands, takes over from th'e Europic Ferry next week.

The sunken ferry, which its owners hope can be salvaged and repaired, is run normally on the Larne-Cairnryan route between Northern Ireland and Scotland. Two other vessels, the Free Enterprise IV and Gaelic Ferry will maintain freight capa city on that route, although Townsend has misgivings about summer passenger capacity.

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