One crew member is dead and four are missing from a cargo ship that sank after colliding with another vessel in the North Sea on Tuesday, German authorities said.
RNews earlier reported that the Verity collided with a larger cargo ship, the Polesie, before it sank in the early hours of the morning, according to the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME).
The ship had seven crew members on board, two of whom were rescued. One person has been found dead and four are still missing, said Christian Stipeldey, spokesman for the German search organization (DGzRS).
Several ships and helicopters were deployed in the afternoon for the rescue operation.
Robby Renner, head of the CCME, said it is possible that the crew members are still in the ship. “If so, there is a chance – and I emphasize only a chance – that they are trapped in the ship’s hull.”
A diving operation was launched where the Verity sank in water about 30 meters deep. Divers will try to locate the ship and determine if there is “any sign of life”, Renner added.
The temperature of the water is around 12 °C, according to Michael Ippich, a director of DGzRS.
If the missing crew members are in the water, they will probably be able to survive for about 20 hours, depending on their physical condition and what equipment they have with them.
“We will continue with the search and rescue operation as long as there is a small chance of survivors,” Stipeldey added.
“The emergency services are doing everything in their power to rescue the missing persons,” Volker Wissing, German Minister of Transport, said in a statement.
The accident occurred about 22 km southwest of the island of Heligoland, according to the CCME.
The Verity, from the British company Faversham, sails under a British flag and was on its way from Bremen to the UK town of Immingham. It transported steel, according to Renner.
The ship is 91 meters long while the Polesie is about 190 meters long. The Polesie has 22 crew members on board.
The search continues under “relatively challenging weather conditions”, Stipeldey said.
The CCME reported winds of six on the Beaufort scale (similar to 40 km/h – 50 km/h) with waves up to three meters high.
Environmental damage from the accident cannot be ruled out – possibly from fuel or the cargo, Renner said.
The Polesie, from the Polish shipping company Polsteam, sails under a Bahamas flag and was on its way from Hamburg to La Coruna in Spain.
Krzysztof Gogol, a spokesman for Polsteam, said his 22 crew members were not injured and “in good physical condition”.
The Polesie took part in the rescue operation shortly after the accident and “took one crew member of the Verity on board”, added Gogol.
A P&O passenger ship that was in the area, the Iona, was also involved in the rescue operation.
Ippich, from the DGzRS, said both crew members who were rescued were taken to a hospital.