DRAMA struck Littlehampton’s harbour when a 225 feet long, 1309-tonne ship crashed into the river wall on Tuesday.
Dredger the Arco Dee lost control after being blown off course by strong winds as she entered the harbour “narrows” at Arun Parade.
The superstructure then scraped against the harbour wall, causing minor damage to both the ship and the concrete wall and handrail.
Littlehampton Harbour Board has sent a report on the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
Dozens of people watched from the popular riverside walkway as the drama unfolded.
One worker from the Harbour Lights café in the Look & Sea Centre said: “The ship was coming down the river when it just seemed to lose control.
“A few people from the café stopped eating their lunch and went outside to watch.”
Architect Simon Padley, 64, of Netley Court, was also among the onlookers.
He said: “I have an app on my Ipad which lets me know when a ship is coming into port.
“I stood on my balcony to watch it enter the harbour. Initially it was on the correct side of the river. But as it reached the 45-degree turn in the river, it drifted closer to the wall.
“Neither the ship nor the wall appeared to be too badly damaged. But it’s not very often you get to see something like this happen.”
The ship, which was entering the harbour for routine maintenance, suffered minor damage to the hull. No one was injured.
The ship then passed alongside Mariner’s Quay and manoeuvred sideways into the centre of the channel before eventually berthing at Railway Wharf, without further incident.
Harbour manager Anne Carnegie said: “Although weather conditions were within the harbour’s published limits for vessel entry, the specific design of this class of vessel presents an unusually large area against which the wind can blow, especially unladen – as in this instance.”