Cargo Ship Sinks: 5 Killed; Search For 6 Missing Crewmen End

By Staff Reporter on December 6, 2012 3:50 PM EST

Handout of Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 and a Dutch navy ship during rescue efforts after a collision between the Baltic Ace and the Corvus J in the North Sea [Photo: Reuters by FleetMon.com]
Handout of Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 and a Dutch navy ship during rescue efforts after a collision between the Baltic Ace and the Corvus J in the North Sea [Photo: Reuters by FleetMon.com]

Cargo ships Baltic Ace, 485-foot (148-meter), and Corvus J, 440-foot (134-meter), collided yesterday along a busy shipping lane just 40 miles (65 kilometers) off the coast of the southern Netherlands. Conditions were near pitch darkness yet the cause of the collision is not known.

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While the Cyprus-registered Corvus J was damaged, it was not in danger of sinking and all 12 crew members remain on the ship. However, the Baltic Ace, which carried brand new Mitsubishi cars from Zeebrugge to the port of Kotka in Finland, quickly sank, causing the 24 crew members to abandon ship.

In an interview with Reuters, Panagiootis Kakoliris, operations manager at Stamco Ship Management, said human error was to blame, though it is too early to say what caused the accident.

After managing to rescue 13 survivors and the bodies of 5 victims, the emergency response team will call off the search for the remaining crewmen as the Baltic Ace now lies at the bottom of the frigid North Sea. The presumed death toll is now at 11 victims.

High winds and extremely rough seas caused the Wednesday night rescue efforts to be prematurely called off after 2 a.m. The next morning. search plans and helicopters patrolled the site of the incident and other ships headed to the area to offer assistance. Unfortunately, freezing and icy conditions make survival impossible.

Handout of Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 and a Dutch navy ship during rescue efforts after a collision between the Baltic Ace and the Corvus J in the North Sea [Photo: Reuters]
Handout of Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 and a Dutch navy ship during rescue efforts after a collision between the Baltic Ace and the Corvus J in the North Sea [Photo: Reuters]

Dutch Coast Guard Peter Wesentburg said, "Given the water temperature and the amount of time that's passed, we don't have any hope for more survivors." On Wednesday night, 13 survivors and 4 bodies were pulled from the wreck. By Thursday morning, a Belgian helicopter managed to pull up the fifth crewman to die at sea.

The Polish embassady in the Netherlands have claimed that 11 of the 24 crew members were from Poland. 6 of these Polish members, including the captain, have been rescued. Other members of the chip are from the Philippines, the Ukraine, and Bulgaria.

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