Harwich Lifeboat Station

European Gateway

On Sunday, 19th December, 1982, the worst incident in the modern history of Harwich Harbour occurred.

The European Gateway outbound from Felixstowe to Zeebrugge, and the inbound Speed Link Vanguard collided in the Harwich Harbour approaches.

The "European Gateway had been hit near the amidships position by the bulbous bow of the "Speedlink Vanguard". Immediately the "European Gateway" started listing, and within a short space of time had capsized. The depth of water in the area was such that half the vessel was above the water.

The severity of the situation warranted a major rescue effort, with all available boats and harbour tugs responding. The Harwich Lifeboat launched and proceeded at full speed to the area. On scene within minutes of the collision were 2 pilot boats, who started to take people off the "European Gateway" as she was capsizing. The "Speedlink Vanguard" with great credibility launched a ship's lifeboat to assist.

As the "European Gateway" lay capsized the boats on scene were still picking up people from the water. Great tribute should be paid to all those who assisted in the rescue operation. In spite of the extremely difficult conditions, including high winds, pitch darkness and floating debris, all survivors were picked up within one hour of the collision occurring. A head count was taken and it was ascertained that six people were unaccounted for. The "Dana Futura", which was inbound for Parkeston Quay, closed into the incident to provide additional lighting by her searchlights to aid the rescue craft searching for the missing persons. Some people who had already been rescued were transferred to the "Dana Futura" where, with the aid of the ship's sauna, the survivors were treated for cold and exposure. The search was eventually terminated when five bodies had been recovered, leaving one person unaccounted for.

The following article from the local press records the local feelings.

The "European Gateway" was eventually salvaged by Wijsmullers from Holland . By that time the North Sea had pounded the wreck and the vessel was severely damaged.

In recognition of their outstanding contribution to the rescue the crews of the 2 pilot boats were awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal. Framed letters of appreciation signed by the RNLI Chairman were awarded to the 3 Masters of the Alexandra Towing Tugs "Sauria", "Alfred" and " Ganges ". The Harwich Lifeboat Coxswain and crew also received letters of appreciation.