6 Dec 2012

Four dead after ship sinks in North Sea

11:21 pm on 6 December 2012

Four sailors are dead and another seven are missing after a cargo ship sank in the North Sea following a collision.

The accident took place off the coast of Belgium and the Netherlands on Wednesday, after the Baltic Ace sailed from Zeebrugge.

Thirteen crew members of the Baltic Ace have been rescued, but seven are still missing in freezing waters, the BBC reports.

The search resumed at dawn on Thursday, but a Netherlands Coastguard spokesman said the chance of finding anyone alive was "virtually zero".

Peter Westenberg said three boats from the Royal Dutch Sea Rescue Organisation, two navy vessels, four helicopters and one coastguard aircraft were being used in the rescue.

Strong winds and high seas had made conditions difficult overnight, and the search was called off at 2am local time on Thursday before resuming at first light.

The 148-metre Baltic Ace was sailing under a Bahamas flag and carrying cars from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Kotka in Finland.

Its 24 crew abandoned ship as it sank quickly after colliding with the Cyprus-registered container ship, the Corvus J, sailing from Grangemouth in Scotland to the Belgian port of Antwerp.

The 134-metre Corvus J is said to be badly damaged but not in danger of sinking. All 12 crew members are still on board.

The Dutch coastguard said the cause of the collision some 65km off the coast of the southern Netherlands, was not yet known.