Ferry runs aground at France’s Calais port

A ferry with more than 300 people on board ran aground Sunday in high winds at Calais in northern France, interrupting traffic in one of Europe’s busiest passenger ports but causing no injuries.

“The vessel is stable. Port officers are looking at how to refloat it,” an official in the local administration told AFP, without giving his name.

A spokeswoman for the P&O shipping company said the ferry, The Pride of Kent, ran aground around noon after it hit a gangway while making to leave for Dover, its destination in Britain.

A Calais port official said the vessel foundered “on a sandbank” while the local prefecture indicated it had hit a rocky bank.

The prefecture said there were 208 passengers aboard plus 105 crew for 313 people in total.

The ship was also transporting 74 lorries, a coach and 36 other vehicles.

“Once towing has been carried out the vessel will berth… and all the passengers will be disembarked and taken care of by the P&O company and the port of Calais,” the port official said.

Two tug boats were trying to pull the ferry free, said an AFP correspondent at the scene, but winds gusting at up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour were making the task difficult.

“The vessel has been pushed from the other side of the port,” a company spokesman told AFP as two tugboats aided by sea rescue crews sought mid-afternoon to stabilise it for eventual berthing.

Port officials said two further tugs were on the way from nearby Dunkirk to provide further help and that traffic in the area would in the meantime remain at a standstill until 1900 GMT.

More than nine million passengers used Calais to cross the English channel in 2016, according to official numbers. (AFP)