Gale-force winds which have buffeted Britain caused chaos today for cruise ships in Southampton.

P&O Cruises’ Oriana was unable to dock as scheduled at Ocean Terminal this morning, and was diverted to a berth adjacent to the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal.

The two tugs assisting could not prevent the 1,870-passenger ship from making a “heavy landing,” hitting the quayside in 60-knot winds. The berth is not actually at the passenger terminal, but further along the quay usually used by roll-on, roll-off cargo ships

Passengers returning from a two-week cruise to see the solar eclipse had to remain on the ship throughout the day and are not expected to be able to leave until later this evening when the winds have subsided enough for the ship to be moved to Ocean Terminal.

They will be given the choice of disembarking immediately, or staying on board for an additional night before leaving on Wednesday morning.

Guests due to board Oriana for a four-night cruise to Guernsey and Zeebrugge were told they will not be able to board the ship until tomorrow. They will receive a 50 per cent refund in compensation for their cruise being shortened by a day. A P&O spokeswoman said the ship was still expected to visit both ports.

AIDAMar, a German operated ship carrying 2,200-passengers, should have left her berth at the QE2 terminal on Monday evening but her departure was delayed by the gales. The ship remained alongside throughout Tuesday and was expected to depart at 8.00 pm.

Elsewhere in Southampton Water, two crewmen were rescued when a tug based at Fawley oil refinery capsized and began to sink. One jumped clear and was able to swim to safety. Another who was trapped inside the vessel was rescued by a refinery safety worker who jumped into the water from a pontoon and smashed a window to release him. Two RNLI crewmembers also jumped into the water to assist the casualty and his rescuer. Three men were treated in hospital.