German rescue teams today called off their search for four sailors who went missing after their British cargo ship collided with another bulk carrier and sunk in the North Sea near Germany.
A desperate rescue mission was launched after the British-flagged cargo ship Verity collided with the much larger Polesei yesterday morning about 14 miles south-west of the German island of Helgoland, with the impact of the collision causing the vessel to capsize and sink.
The Bahamas-flagged Polesei, which remained afloat with 22 people on board after the accident, joined in the desperate search for the Verity’s crew members but one man was found dead and four more sailors remain missing.
But the search for any survivors was abandoned today after the rescue mission involving ships and aircraft scouring the North Sea amid 10ft waves and heavy fog proved fruitless last night.
After rescuers said it was possible that the four missing crew members were trapped inside the ship’s hull, divers were sent down to the depth of the sea to desperately search for signs of life. But they were unable to find anything.
Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said the entire sea area where the missing sailors might be was searched again last night without any results, and rescuers stopped the search overnight.
The emergency command said the search will not be resumed today, shattering any hopes of finding survivors.
After joining in the search for the crew members, the Polesei was later able to dock in the port of Cuxhaven, north Germany, at 4am this morning under its own steam with pictures showing the scale of the damage dealt to the 645ft cargo ship as it sat in the dock.
The damaged hull of a tanker that collided with a British cargo ship that later sank in the North Sea near Germany has been pictured for the first time
The Polesei was later able to dock in the port of Cuxhaven, north Germany, at 4am this morning under its own steam with pictures showing the scale of the damage dealt to the 645ft cargo ship as it sat in the dock
The collision left two crater-sized holes and large scrapes along the left hand side of the Polesei’s hull, while for the Verity, which was carrying steel from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham, the damage was insurmountable
British-flagged vessel Verity (file image) collided with another cargo ship Polesie at around 5am on Tuesday morning about 14 miles southwest of the island of Helgoland, Germany ‘s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said
The collision left two crater-sized holes and large scrapes along the left-hand side of the Polesei’s hull, while for the Verity, which was carrying steel from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham, the damage was insurmountable.
Rescuers recovered the body of a man yesterday while two more crew members were pulled from the water alive and taken to hospital. But there is still no sign of the four missing crew members.
Their rescue efforts in the 15C North Sea were hampered by 30mph winds, 10ft waves and poor visibility due to fog.
‘The conditions on the spot are extremely difficult,’ Robby Renner, the head of the emergency command, said yesterday. ‘Because of the weather and visibility under water, it’s incredibly difficult to conduct such an operation.’
The Bahamas-flagged Polesie, which had left Hamburg for La Coruna in Spain, remained afloat after the collision and began helping in the rescue mission and ‘took on board one of the crew members of the Verity ship, a Filipino sailor’, Krzysztof Gogol, a spokesman for the ship’s owner Polsteam said.
Gogal said the Polesei’s crew members were in ‘good physical condition’ but it later emerged the sailors were receiving psychological support following the collision.
The Polesei has now docked in the port of Cuxhaven, with images showing the scale of the damage to the ship’s hull.
Two rescue cruisers, an emergency tug, a pilot boat, a police patrol boat and a helicopter were helping with the search yesterday (pictured) but they have now stopped their search of the water’s surface
The P&O cruise ship Iona, which left Southampton three days ago for Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bruges in Belgium, was among vessels that joined in the search for survivors. It has now left the scene. Pictures show a spotlight aimed at the water as the search operation got underway before dawn
A view from the P&O cruise ship Iona shows the rescue operation underway with several vessels at the scene yesterday
The P&O Cruises ship Iona, which left Southampton four days ago for Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bruges in Belgium, had joined in the search yesterday morning but has since moved on from the scene to carry on with its journey, a spokesperson said.
Two rescue cruisers, an emergency tug, a pilot boat, a police patrol boat and helicopters had also been helping with the search – but this search of the surface was stopped last night and will not be resumed this morning, raising fears that the four missing sailors will not be found alive.
The owner of Verity, Faversham Ships Ltd, is based on the Isle of Wight and said it had no comment on the situation.
In 2017, another cargo ship called The Islay Trade, which was owned and managed by Faversham Ships, ran aground near Margate Harbour.
The cargo ship’s chief officer ‘became uncertain of the vessel’s position and overwhelmed’, according to a Maritime Accident Investigation Branch report seen by The Times.
The P&O Cruises ship Iona, which can hold 5,200 holidaymakers and 1,800 crew, yesterday joined several vessels in the search for Verity, including sea rescue cruisers ‘Hermann Marwede’ and ‘Bernhard Gruben’.
Passengers on board Iona told MailOnline they were awoken at 5.30am to an emergency announcement from the captain about the accident, with one saying everyone ‘was in a state of panic’.
In footage obtained from Iona this morning, passengers were told that their cruiser was involved in the search for ‘people in the water’.
Video captured the dramatic moment P&O passengers are told that their cruiser is joining the desperate search for ‘people in the water’
Search lights scanning the water near to where the British cargo ship Verity sank after colliding with another vessel yesterday
An image from Marine Traffic shows the two cargo ships getting perilously close to each other before colliding yesterday morning
‘We’re looking for persons in the water from another vessel that has been involved in an incident earlier this morning,’ they are told over a Tannoy. ‘Our ship’s company are fully prepared and are standing by to assist with this operation.’
One passenger, who wishes to be identified only as Mr Johnson, said he saw the P&O cruise ship searching the water with spotlights this morning after hearing the announcement.
‘Everyone was very petrified and scared. Everyone was in a state of panic,’ Mr Johnson told MailOnline.
‘It was very dark, we had search beams from all angles of the cruise ship hunting. There were chilling noises and announcements as everyone was trying to find out what was happening.’
He added: ‘We are on holiday but this is a very tragic situation. We cannot comprehend how the people involved in the collision must be feeling along with the family of the people who remain missing or have lost their lives.
‘You never know what’s going to happen in the world, we just all hope that the outcome does not become more tragic.’
A P&O Cruises spokesperson later told MailOnline: ‘Iona has now been released from the scene by the coastguard and is en route to Rotterdam as scheduled.’
Collisions were the second-biggest cause of incidents involving cargo ships on the world’s oceans in 2022, according to insurer Allianz.
However, collisions rarely result in the loss of a boat. Around 38 cargo ships were critically damaged last year, of which only four were due to collisions.