OWNERS of the cruise liner Astoria say their vessel did not run aground while leaving Poole Harbour, despite accounts from witnesses to the contrary.

Residents contacted the Daily Echo on Wednesday after the 16,144-tonne cruise ship, which can carry up to 550 guests, appeared to struggle while leaving the port on that evening.

Yesterday, the ship's owners, Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV), said: "The Astoria did not run aground, touch bottom or have any contact whatsoever with any foreign object in the Poole channel, contrary to the belief of some observers who viewed the ship’s departure."

Instead the company says the ships captain decided to drop anchor at 6.06pm due to the "strong current and high water in the Poole channel at the time of her departure."

A statement from CMV said: "By 6.30pm the anchor was no longer in use and Astoria proceeded on her way again without assistance. There was no contact between Astoria and the sea bed and no damage was sustained by the vessel, the port or any third parties.

"The efforts and professionalism shown by the Ship’s Captain and the port’s pilot who was onboard the MV Astoria ensured that the safety and wellbeing of our passengers were never compromised during this challenging manoeuvre."

Dozens of people witnessed the manoeuvre as it unfolded.

Jason Pope, of Swanage, was waiting at the Sandbanks Ferry crossing at the time.

He said that as the cruise ship was exiting the harbour, the fast-running tide appeared to push the vessel's port side to such an extent that "it did not make its port turn in time" before appearing to look as if it had grounded on Stoney Island.

"It dropped its port chain bow anchor to stop its course.

"It then powered forward with the anchor still down until it had corrected its course for exit from the harbour.

"The noise was terrific as it was forced against its anchor chain."

The Barfleur ferry was seen waiting at sea in the distance while the incident unfolded.

Alan Matley, of Sandbanks, was sitting down for dinner when he saw the ship struggling.

He said: "We watched it go past, then it just stopped and appeared to lurch at an odd angle.

"It was there for about 10 minutes, the stern swung across so it was at right angles to the channel.

"We suspected if it kept drifting that way it would go down into the peninsular or go into the Sandbanks Ferry, or both.

"Fortunately they seemed to pull it into a safe position."