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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 16:06 GMT
Ship runs aground in Dover Strait
Aerial view of the LT Cortesia vessel
The vessel does not appear to have suffered any damage

A German container vessel with 27 crew on board has run aground in the Dover Strait off the coast of Kent.

The 90,465-tonne LT Cortesia was en route to the Suez Canal when it ran aground on the Varne Bank, nine miles (14km) south of Dover harbour.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said all those aboard were unhurt and the ship still appeared watertight.

A spokesman said it had "one shot" at moving the vessel, at high water at 1833 GMT before the tide dropped.

"It may be a couple of days before the tide rises again," he said.

The ship is carrying 4,148 containers, some of which is "hazardous cargo", but they are reported to be secure.

The exact nature of the materials on board is unknown but it is carrying a mix of cargo.

All vessels entering the Dover Strait have to report any hazardous materials to the Coastguard, but it could be as little as one container with perfume inside.

First indications from the vessel were that it had not sustained any damage.

close up map of Channel showing Varne bank

"There was no pollution visible around the vessel... and there doesn't appear to be a breach of the hull," said a spokesman.

"It's quite safe where it is. It's sat on a sandbank on the Varne and it's not going anywhere.

"The situation is well under control at the moment."

It is unclear why the vessel ran aground.

The towing vessel Anglian Monarch is at the scene, while the owners are also believed to be arranging for the assistance of additional tugs.

There is currently a 2.5 mile (4km) exclusion zone around the ship and a 3,000ft air exclusion zone.

The container vessel ran aground just before high water at 0500 GMT as it travelled through the Dover Strait in the south west bound lane from Thames Port.

The Varne sandbank is a well-known hazard that is clearly marked on all shipping charts.

German container vessel runs aground in the Dover Strait

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