Leith Docks incident: Major operation in Edinburgh after Petrel boat tips on side - what we know so far

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A major operation was under way on Wednesday after the boat tipped

A major emergency services operation was under way at Leith Docks on Wednesday after a ship tipped on its side, injuring more than 30 people.

Police are still on the scene of the incident, which also multiple fire and ambulance crews descend on Leith. This is all we know about the incident so far.

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First reports and emergency response

A view of the ship Petrel at Imperial Dock in Leith, Edinburgh, which has become dislodged from its holding and is partially toppled over. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA WireA view of the ship Petrel at Imperial Dock in Leith, Edinburgh, which has become dislodged from its holding and is partially toppled over. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
A view of the ship Petrel at Imperial Dock in Leith, Edinburgh, which has become dislodged from its holding and is partially toppled over. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Emergency services were called to the Imperial Dock in Leith at around 8.35am on Wednesday, following reports of a ship on dry dock having become dislodged from its holdings. Police, fire and ambulance crews were in attendance and an air ambulance was also spotted at the scene.

A Police Scotland spokesman asked the public to avoid the area in order to allow emergency services access. A spokesperson for the Scottish Ambulance Service added that five ambulances, an air ambulance, three trauma teams and a special operations team had been dispatched to Leith Docks, as well as three paramedic response units and a patient transport vehicle.

A spokesman for HM Coastguard said it was called at around 9.30am and rescue teams from Fisherrow, South Queensferry and Kinghorn attended.

All casualties were confirmed by around 1.20pm and police said everyone had been accounted for. Speaking on Wednesday evening, Superintendent Mark Rennie said: “I would like to thank partner agencies involved in the response to this incident which involved a complex operation to make sure everyone was safe. There is no risk to the wider public and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of what has happened. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed. I would also like to thank the public for their patience while the emergency services undertook a very difficult job aiding casualties. We continue to ask people to avoid the area.”

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What ship was involved?

The boat that tipped while on dry dock was the research ship RV Petrel. The 76m vessel was previously owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen but is no longer owned by his estate. It is understood to now be owned by a branch of the US Navy and has been moored at Leith since 2020. Pictures from the scene showed the ship leaning at a 45 degrees angle.

How many people were injured? NHS issues warning

More than 30 people have been treated for injuries as a result of the incident. Twenty-one people were taken to hospital for treatment; 15 to Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, four to the Western General Hospital and two to Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said 12 more patients were treated and discharged at the scene, bring the total number of people injured to 33. The figures were confirmed shortly after NHS Lothian warned of growing pressures on A&E in Edinburgh. It warned people not to attend A&E unless it was an emergency.

Moment was ‘very scary’ say witnesses

Workers at Leith Docks who were at the scene when the ship tipped on Wednesday morning described hearing a loud noise.

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James Walsh, 39, a scaffolder, said: "We stopped what we were doing. I'm the foreman, so I just evaluated the situation, we were on the docks further up and we were advised we were fine where we were." He spoke to one worker he knows on the ship, and said he told them: "He had just put his tool bag down and thought 'I'm going to nip to the toilet', went away to the toilet, and he said he doesn't know where his workmates were."

Mr Walsh added: "It's scary. Very scary. Just makes you evaluate everything really. No-one goes to work to be involved in any kind of accident. It's so scary that you go to work and something like that can possibly happen. It's bad enough having a near accident, that's scary enough, or a minimal accident, but something like that in this day and age."

Colin Agnew, 33, who works on the docks, said: "We just heard noise and we wondered what it was and then all of a sudden you were hearing all the police, fire engines, and the ambulance come in. It was crazy because you wouldn't think you would hear that down by here. It was just crazy."

Port chaplain Pauline Robertson, from the Sailors' Society, said the incident was "just horrific" and added: "Those that witnessed it, it's so much to take in. It's surreal in so many ways and it's a lot to process."

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What did public figures say? Local reaction in Edinburgh

Public figures in Edinburgh expressed their concern in the immediate aftermath of the incident. The Scottish Government activated its resilience arrangements to support the response and urged the public to stay away from the area.

Adam McVey, SNP councillor for Leith, said: “Emergency services are responding to a major incident at Leith docks- a ship has been dislodged from its holding in strong winds. Terrifying for those on board, my thoughts are with those who’ve been injured & hope everyone recovers quickly. Please avoid area.”

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, also sent support to those involved. He said: “My thoughts are with everyone affected and those injured following an incident at Imperial Dock in Leith. Please avoid the area to allow emergency service access and only attend the Royal Edinburgh A&E unless it's an emergency.”