A 3000-tonne dredger that crashed into the Thames Barrier and partially sank in dense fog was last night set to remain on the riverbed as salvage teams worked to pump out its gravel cargo.

The 98-metre Sand Kite is from the same fleet as the ill-fated Bowbelle, which collided with the pleasure boat Marchioness in 1989, killing 51 people.

Salvage teams were on the 23-year-old vessel and emptying out the tonnes of sea-dredged gravel which it had collected before making its trip up the Thames.

It had a gaping hole in its hull and Port of London Authority divers were swimming underneath to assess the extent of the damage as ropes were attached to the barriers on both sides of the ship to stop it drifting in the strong Thames currents.

Both the Sand Kite and Bowbelle were built in the same shipyard in Troon, Scotland, 10 years apart, and are linked with the South Coast Shipping Company based in Southampton.

A PLA spokesman said: ''A salvage organisation has been drafted in to help repair and eventually move the ship. Further inspections need to be carried out tonight and it is expected that the ship will be moved at the earliest during low tide tomorrow.

''The ship will tonight be under the close scrutiny of the navigation control centre and the river will be partially opened up to other ships.''

No-one was injured when the ship hit a pier at 6.50am as it was heading to Angerstein's Wharf. All 10 crew members were taken off by another boat while the master and chief engineer remained on board to oversee the salvage operation.

Labour MP for Gravesham Chris Pond yesterday spoke out against proposals to let more ships up the Thames without a pilot.

He said: ''The PLA has been pushing some proposals to change the pilotage limits on ships so those of 80 metres or less in length will no longer need to take on a pilot to get into the Port of London. Pilots on the Thames and Medway are deeply concerned about this.

''The 3000-tonne ship that ran into the barrier this morning is 98 metres long and it's already one of the ships that the PLA exempts from the need to have a pilot.

''These are not rowing boats - these are substantial vessels. We need to hold an inquiry to see what actually took place,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for South Coast Shipping said: ''Today's incident with the Sand Kite is being investigated. It is too early to say what caused the accident.''