Dutch coastguard searches for bodies after ships collide

The Dutch coastguard is today resuming the search for seven missing crew members of a sunken cargo ship after a collision in the North Sea last night – but accepted the search is only to recover the bodies.

Peter Westenberg of the Dutch Coast Guard said that “given the water temperature and the amount of time that’s passed, we don’t have any hope for more survivors”.

The 485ft Baltic Ace collided with the 440ft container ship Corvus J, heading from Scotland to Belgium, in darkness near busy shipping lanes 40 miles off the coast of the southern Netherlands. The Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, had a crew of 24 which was forced to abandon ship as it sank quickly.

Four bodies were found early today, and 13 survivors were rescued.

Several helicopters, navy patrol ships and even one of the ships involved in yesterday’s collision were involved in the search as weather conditions eased.

The Dutch defence ministry said two navy patrol ships were aiding the search.

“Helicopters are trying, in (strong wind) and high waves to bring the people to safety,” it said.

The coastguard said the 12-man crew of the Corvus J was still on board the ship, which was helping in the rescue operation. “It is badly damaged, but not in danger of sinking.”

Four of the survivors were being flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to an air base in Belgium.

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, Scotland, to Antwerp.

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