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Storms Ground Ferry at Cairnryan

STRICKEN P&O ferry European Highlander was expected to be back in action yesterday (Wednesday) after a weekend of high drama at Cairnryan port.

The 21,000 tonne vessel was left grounded for 30 hours after thunderous storms off the Rhins coast pushed her off course as she tried to land.

The Cairnryan to Larne route rose to national prominence on Saturday as hurricane-force winds and heavy rain made conditions at sea treacherous.

Stranded crew and passengers on board the 4.15 am sailing from Larne were forced to endure a 30 hour wait to disembark the Highlander - despite lying just yards from dry land.

The ferry finally docked on Sunday morning after being refloated and pulled clear using two tugs.

Immediately a full investigation into the incident was launched by P&O and the vessel was floated into dry dock at Liverpool for inspection.

After concluding that there was no damage to the ship, P&O moved her back into port at Larne where she was due to return to service at 8 pm on Tuesday. But a decline in the weather conditions meant her return was delayed. A spokesman for the company said:

"An investigation is underway to discover exactly what happened. The wind factor certainly played its part.

"The vessel is back in Larne tonight (Tuesday) and had been due to sail again at 8 pm. But based on the weather forecasts that has been cancelled."

Saturday's drama unfolded as the 4.15 am sailing approached her berth at Cairnryan shortly before 6 am. Clyde Coastguard reported the ferry had been swept onto the sandbank by 100 knot hurricane-force winds at the end of her voyage from Larne.

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