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Loss of tow of barge John William

Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners Investigation

Report, Revelations and Recommendations.

Loss of tow with no injuries and no damage to the towed vessel John William.

Date of incident 2nd October 2019.


Vessels involved:  Sandwich Tug – 12 passenger / utility vessel owned and commanded by Colin Carr.  All licences up to date.  Colin Carr sole person aboard.

Image:  Sandwich Tug.

Barge John William owned by John Dyvig.  Documentation unknown.  John Dyvig and competent crew Tom Lash aboard.

Image shows John William temporarily moored to fence gatepost.  Photo JCB  2nd October 2019.


Reports were requested by SP&HC from ‘Sandwich Tug’, ‘John William’ and ‘crew’ Tom Lash.   ‘John William’ owner failed to submit a report whilst ‘Sandwich Tug’ submitted his brevitous report earlier this year (2020).


Incident Report:


Barge ‘John William’ owner engaged ‘Sandwich Tug’ to tow the barge ‘John William’ from its then location downriver to Richborough Wharf, stopping off on the way to turn the vessel in the winding hole at Gazen Salts.

The Barge ‘John William’ was under tow by the utility vessel; ‘Sandwich Tug’, bound down river from its (John William) berth near Richborough Castle, thence around the Sandwich Loop passing through Sandwich town and swing bridge,  down to Richborough Wharf.  A distance of around 6 nautical miles.  The departure point situated perhaps three quarters of a mile upstream of the commencement point of the downstream waters controlled by the Sandwich Port and Haven Commissioners, (SPHC) Above that point vessels are in the waters of the Southern Water Authority, who hold no remit for administration on navigation matters.  No notification was made to SP&HC that such a move into SP&HC waters - closely congested with moored craft and the main road swing bridge- was to be made.

Upon arrival at the winding hole the swing commenced but a line found its way around the Sandwich Tug propeller and rudder.

The account of Tom Lash – in part - states:

“I received a phone call from John Dyvig asking for a deck hand on board John William as Colin was due to tow her downriver. When I arrived it was apparent Colin was short handed as only he was aboard the Sandwich Tug.  Shortly after I arrived we slipped lines on John William and proceeded down river under tow.  About 1 hour after leaving the berth we arrived at the winding hole at Gazen Salts.  Timing was perfect for us to turn when Colin started to manoeuvre us for the turn he repeatedly kept going astern very hard into the bank with his tug.

By now the tide was in full flood and Colin was clearly out of control of the situation.  He had bent his rudder.   Once it was clear he had damaged his vessel Colin became very angry and started to shout at me and Mr Dyvig.  Soon after he let us drift and we floated without power on a full flood spring tide.  It was lucky I was able to get the engine started for long enough to get to either bank 200 yards up from where Mr Carr let us drift.

Once stationary I called James of Highway Marine for assistance who very swiftly came to our assistance and we made John William fast to trees and a fence.

At that point I left the vessel as Mr Dyvig, the owner, had responsibility for her safe keeping.  I have not seen him since.”

An internal Commissioners email of 2nd October 2019.  From James Blackmore of Highway Marine:

“Colin Carr was towing a 70' barge downstream from Richborough Fort.  On trying to turn it in the winding hole at Gazen Salts he hit the bank with his tug hard enough to jam his rudder under the hull.  I then got a call from Tom Lash who was left on the barge with another chap, somehow it was no longer tied to Colin's tug and drifting upstream with no power so not under command and with full flood tide!! I ran up there in our launch and got a line ashore round a tree for them. When I left they had two heavy lines ashore and were coming back down with more later, I dropped them all back to Esso Wharf. Its not good as its right on the bend.   I do not know how she will take the ground there. I just wanted to be clear that Highway Marine are in no way involved, except to help prevent an incident.”

Colin Carr account of incident:  (copied verbatim).

“A few months ago when attempting to tow the John William barge to Richborough Quay the propeller of the Sandwich Tug became entangled with a ripe drifting in the river.  The owner of the John William .  Assured me that thay had an anker and to detach the tow to sort things out. I WAS INSTRUCTED TO NOT RE ATTACHED!  By the owner.

Highway Marine assistance was given with the Sandwich Tug.”   


1)  The manning of Sandwich Tug was seriously compromised by having just the one person aboard.

2) That manning issue was compounded by the control position of the vessel being located within a wheel house remote from the main work deck.  Thus creating an inability to execute both tasks at the same time by the single person on board.

3) There was no second vessel to act as stern control for the John William, and, as it transpired, to take over some sort of emergency control.

4) Sandwich Tug, being fitted with an exposed rudder could be judged as being unfit for towage duties.


1) That a proper securely fixed towing bollard / bits be placed abaft the funnel  (Sandwich Tug).

2) Tow lines are kept free of any slack to prevent any propeller or rudder fouling.

3) Minimum of two persons on board when towing / moving another vessel.

4) Harbour Master explicit approval for the movement through the moorings of Sandwich Marina, the sailing club and Highway Marine be sought and obtained.

5) On approval request a Notice to Mariners be issued.

6) All movements of dead vessels of over 50ft length to be so moved having two support / tug vessels consistent in size of the vessel to be moved. (dead vessel = no engine).

Signed:   Robert Holden, Chairman of Commissioners

9th April 2020


Since this incident SPHC have drawn up and approved General Directions for Navigation on the River Stour which includes a Code of Safe Practice for towage. These GD’s are available on the SPHC website  HERE

Drifting Barge Incident General Directions

Barge incident investigation and outcome