THE extent of damage to the Sandbanks Ferry has been revealed – with a tug company being accused of responsibility.

A photo obtained by the Echo shows extensive damage to the southern end prow which happened when the vessel was being towed from Poole Quay to Falmouth for its biennial refit.

The ferry was due to be towed to Falmouth on November 2 until stormy weather conditions prevented the ferry from leaving Poole.

Once conditions eased, it arrived in Falmouth on November 13 where it was found to have sustained the damage on the journey.

While the circumstances are still under investigation, the prow arms were severely bent in the incident – which one boat expert has described as “a major problem”.

Bournemouth Echo: Damage sustained to the Sandbanks FerryDamage sustained to the Sandbanks Ferry (Image: Newsquest)

The former boatsman, who did not wish to be named, told the Echo: “This is not a case of cut the damaged arm off and stick another one on, it is part of the main structure so for that to be damaged like it is represents a major problem for the ferry company.

“Hydraulic rams pull the prow up for vehicles to enter and exit and they sit on those arms, with the southern one now badly bent.

“To sustain that sort of damage it must have had one heck of a bang because those steel arms are massive.”

Sandbanks Ferry Company confirmed the vessel would not return until the New Year.

Managing director Jason du Toit told the Echo: “New prows have been ordered and are under construction. But this is not something you can pull off a shelf and put on, these are custom built and unique to our vessel and it takes time.

“Refit work is on schedule and moving along nicely. While we are making progress we don’t have a definitive date yet for completion or when we will return to service.

Bournemouth Echo: Sandbanks Ferry terminal closedSandbanks Ferry terminal closed (Image: Newsquest)

“We’re looking into whether we can deliver it back to Poole early to expedite the process, but this won’t happen before the New Year.”

Mr du Toit was unable to comment on the cause of the damage due to potential legal issues, but has previously said a letter had been issued to the tug company “holding them fully responsible”.

He added: “Only the tow crew were there, they have their version, and we have expert opinion. But everything is still under investigation.

“This is such an inconvenience to our customers and there are so many other factors, like loss of earnings. If it wasn’t for the damage we’d be nearly ready. I know the pain as I live in Bournemouth and am driving an extra 50 miles a day without the ferry.

“I don’t understand people’s frustration, I experience it. But we can’t make half-hearted repairs, it has to be to a high standard.”