The cross-Tyne Shields ferry was rescued last night by Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat volunteers in a dramatic mission.
At 11:30pm, the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat Spirit of Northumberland was launched after the ferry's engine failed on its final crossing of the night from North to South Shields.
As the lifeboat was being launched, the Port of Tyne pilot launch, Collingwood, managed to evacuate the small number of passengers from the ferry, leaving just the skipper who was desperately trying to get the ferry's engine restarted. The drifting ferry was then carried several hundred yards downriver by the powerful wind and current until it was caught on the river bank.
The RNLI lifeboat approached the ferry and, in a difficult operation, the volunteer crew managed to get a tow rope attached and the lifeboat then pulled the stricken vessel away from the rocks, almost becoming grounded itself in the extreme wind.
The lifeboat dragged the ferry back to South Shields ferry landing and almost had it secured when the tow rope parted after becoming snagged on the ferry landing., with the wind again blowing the powerless ferry away from the landing. Eventually the lifeboat crew got the ferry under tow again and, assisted by the crew of the pilot launch, got it safely tied up on the landing.
Adrian Don, spokesman for Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: "Our crew was paged at 11:30 to what turned out to be a short but incredibly difficult and dramatic rescue in a howling gale. Michael Nugent, our Coxswain, and his volunteer crew used their extensive experience, training, determination, and every last reserve of the lifeboat's powerful engines to rescue the ferry and bring it and its skipper to safety. Thankfully, no-one was hurt in the incident."