Dutch call off search for 6 missing crewmen

AP News
Posted: Dec 06, 2012 12:17 PM
Dutch call off search for 6 missing crewmen

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Rescuers called off search efforts for six missing crewmen Thursday from a cargo ship that sank in the North Sea after a collision with another vessel. The presumed death toll is 11 — taking into account the missing and five bodies found so far.

A day after the Baltic Ace capsized in international waters off Netherlands' southern coast, search helicopters, planes and coast guard ships were called back to their bases amid icy conditions.

"Given the water temperature and the amount of time that's passed, we don't have any hope for more survivors," Peter Westenberg of the Dutch coast guard said.

Westenberg said passing ships were still being notified by radio to remain alert for possible human remains.

The 148-meter (485-foot) Baltic Ace sank Wednesday evening after colliding with the 134-meter (440-foot) container ship Corvus J near busy shipping lanes. The cause of the collision wasn't known.

Thirteen members of the ship's 24-man crew were rescued after the collision.

The Dutch waterways agency has located the spot of the wreck about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from land, and marked out the area with buoys. A ship is posted near the spot to help guide shipping traffic. The agency said it is in contact with the ship's owner about possible salvage operations.

The Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, sank quickly as the crew tried to abandon ship.

Dutch police have identified the five victims whose bodies have been found as two Poles, aged 47 and 50; two Filipinos aged 30 and 51; and a 47-year-old Ukrainian.

All survivors were expected to fully recover.

Janusz Wolosz, an official with the Polish Embassy in The Hague, said that in addition to the two Polish crewmembers who have been confirmed dead, three are missing and six crew, including the Polish captain, were recovering after being rescued.

"They were all well-qualified for their jobs," said Mariusz Lenckowski, of the agency that employed the Polish seamen. He said the Baltic Ace was built in the Gdynia shipyard in Poland in 2007.

The Baltic Ace, sailing under a Bahamas flag, was heading from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Kotka in Finland, and the Cyprus-registered Corvus J was on its way from Grangemouth in Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium.

Photos of the Corvus J published by the coast guard showed serious damage to its prow, but it was not considered in danger of sinking. Its 12-man crew was unharmed and had assisted in the search Wednesday, but Thursday it sailed to Vlissingen, Netherlands, for repairs.

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Sandra Groenendal of the Dutch Safety Board said responsibility for investigating the crash lies with the states under whose flags the ships were sailing — the Bahamas and Cyprus — because the collision happened outside Dutch territorial waters. However, she added it was possible those states would seek Dutch assistance.

The owner of the Baltic Ace, Ray Car Carriers Ltd., and its manager, STAMCO Ship Management Co. Ltd., put out a statement of condolences to the families of the dead and missing crew, and said they will be offered support.

Company representatives weren't available Thursday to answer questions about the cargo or how much fuel might still be aboard the wrecked vessel.

Netherlands government data show 260,000 ships cross through Dutch waters annually, mostly foreign ships. Due in part to the nearby location of Rotterdam, Europe's largest port, the area is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, yet fewer than 20 accidents happen annually, and fatal injuries are rare.


Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, and Monica Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.