Passengers on a ferry which ran aground in hurricane-force winds were today said to be in "good spirits" as they waited for rescue. But they were set to remain on board the P&O European Highlander, stranded off Cairnryan in south-west Scotland overnight.
The ferry set sail from Larne in Northern Ireland at 4.15 a.m. today for what should have been a routine two-hour crossing to Cairnryan. But the vessel, with 43 passengers and 57 crew on board, became a casualty of the atrocious weather overnight.
Winds of up to 100 knots pushed the vessel on to a stretch of shingle beach only 100 yards or so from her intended berth. A spokeswoman for P&O Irish Sea said the company was in the process of locating tugs. The original intention was to refloat the vessel around 10 p.m tonight at high tide.
But the ferry company later said problems of availability, combined with weather conditions, meant it could not get a tug to the scene in time for tonight's high tide.
Instead, a tug will leave the port of Greenock in Renfrewshire at midnight and will arrive at Cairnryan at 8 a.m. in readiness for the morning high tide.
"Following consultation with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, passengers will have to remain onboard the vessel until tomorrow at approximately 12 noon," said P&O.
"Everyone on board is well, the master is keeping them informed every half hour to an hour, they are being fed and there are refreshments," said the spokeswoman.
"It's a new ship brought into service only recently so facilities are very comfortable and spirits are still high."
Coastguards had a lifeboat on standby and a helicopter at readiness in case they were needed.
Clyde coastguard duty manager Mr Stuart Atkinson said: "At the moment the safest place for passengers is on board because they have their own cabins and bars rather than us trying to take them off by helicopter or lifeboats or any other means.
"But we have contingency plans if something goes wrong on board to take passengers off."
The RNLI lifeboat from Girvan, Ayrshire, was launched soon after the grounding.