Divers are being sent down to the depths of the North Sea to search for signs of life inside a sunken British cargo ship that collided with another bulk carrier, leaving one dead and four missing.
British-flagged vessel Verity collided with another cargo ship Polesei at around 5am this morning about 14 miles south-west of the German island of Helgoland, Germany‘s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said.
The 300ft vessel, which was carrying steel from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham with seven people on board, sank following the impact and rescuers have launched a desperate mission to find the missing crew members.
The body of a man has been recovered while four crew members are still missing, the German Sea Rescue Society said, adding that two more people had been pulled from the water alive.
Robby Renner, the head of the emergency command, said his team are ‘doing everything humanly possible’ to rescue more crew members alive.
Renner said it is possible crew members are trapped inside the ship’s hull and in response, a diving operation has been launched into the waters where the Verity sank, which are around 98ft deep. Divers will try to locate the ship and establish whether there are ‘any signs of life’ inside, Renner said.
‘We haven’t found the missing people yet. Therefore we have to assume they can still be in the ship. Our rescue operation is in full swing. We are now doing everything humanely possible to rescue more people alive,’ Renner said this afternoon.
The P&O Cruises ship Iona, which left Southampton three days ago for Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bruges in Belgium, had joined in the search this morning but has since moved on from the scene to carry on with its journey, a spokesperson said.
The 300ft vessel, which was carrying steel from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham with seven people on board, sank following the impact and rescuers have launched a desperate mission to find the missing crew members. Pictured: A series of vessels at the scene searching for Verity
The 300ft vessel, which was on its way from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham, sank following the impact and rescuers have launched a desperate mission to find several people who are missing. Pictured: Rescue vessels at the scene
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. Pictures show a spotlight aimed at the water as the search operation got underway before dawn
British-flagged vessel Verity (file image) collided with another cargo ship Polesie at around 5am this morning about 14 miles southwest of the island of Helgoland, Germany ‘s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said
Search lights scanning the water near to where the British cargo ship Verity sank after colliding with another vessel
An image from Marine Traffic shows the two cargo ships getting perilously close to each other before colliding
Video captured the dramatic moment P&O passengers are told that their cruiser is joining the desperate search for ‘people in the water’
Rescuers are still desperately searching for the four remaining crew members – but that search in the 15C North Sea is being hampered by 30mph winds, 10ft waves and poor visibility due to fog.
The water temperature at the time of the accident was about 12C, said Michael Ippich, of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service.
If the missing crew members were in the water, it would be possible for them to survive for around 20 hours depending on their physical condition and what equipment they had, Ippich said.
‘The conditions on the spot are extremely difficult,’ Renner said. ‘Because of the weather and visibility under water, it’s incredibly difficult to conduct such an operation.’
Several rescue ships and aircraft taking part in the search had not located the missing crew members by mid-afternoon.
Passengers on board the P&O cruise ship 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’.
‘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.’
Another 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.
He said: ‘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.’
The P&O cruise ship Iona, which can hold 5,200 holidaymakers and 1,800 crew, earlier joined several vessels in the search for Verity, including sea rescue cruisers ‘Hermann Marwede’ and ‘Bernhard Gruben’.
A P&O Cruises spokesperson said Iona has since been released from the scene by the coastguard is now en route to Rotterdam as scheduled.
The German Sea Rescue Society later said one body had been recovered and two people had been rescued. Another four crew members remain missing.
The other ship, the Bahamas-flagged Polesie that had left Hamburg for La Coruna in Spain, remained afloat with 22 people on board after the collision. The Verity was the smaller vessel with a length of almost 300 feet, compared to the Polesie’s 625 feet.
The owner of Verity, Faversham Ships Ltd, is based on the Isle of Wight and said it had no comment on the situation.
Two rescue cruisers, an emergency tug, a pilot boat, a police patrol boat and a helicopter are helping with the search
A view from the P&O cruise ship Iona shows the rescue operation underway with several vessels at the scene
Mr Johnson, who saw the cruise ship searching the waters with a spotlight, said: ‘This is a very tragic situation’
A helicopter (pictured) is also involved in the search as well as an emergency tug, a pilot boat and a police patrol boat
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.
A passenger on board the Iona said he was woken up at 5.45am this morning to an emergency announcement and saw the Iona searching the dark waters with a beam as he stepped out on to the deck.
‘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: ‘You never know what’s going to happen in the world, we just all hope that the outcome does not become more tragic.’
Another passenger on board Iona, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was woken up by the cruise ship stopping.
‘The crew were called to their muster stations, that’s how I found out something was wrong. It wasn’t until later that the captain announced we were helping in a search and rescue operation with the German government.
‘I went outside and saw the search lights in the water, we all felt sad and anxious, hoping that they would find people.’
The passenger added: ‘It’s a horrible thing to happen and our thoughts go to those who are currently missing and their families. We are anxiously waiting for updates in the hope more people are found.’
‘There’s a very sombre feeling on board, we are all awaiting updates and are praying for good news.’
The other ship, the Bahamas-flagged Polesie (file image), remained afloat with 22 people on board
The P&O cruise ship Iona (file image), which left Southampton three days ago for Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bruges in Belgium, has now joined in the search for the survivors. The emergency command said the victims can receive medical care on board Iona
Two rescue cruisers, an emergency tug, a pilot boat, a police patrol boat and a helicopter are helping with the search.
A helicopter is also involved in the search as well as an emergency tug, a pilot boat and a police patrol boat.
The German emergency command said it also has a sensor aircraft flying over the sea in order to obtain more information on the whereabouts of Verity.
A P&O Cruises spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Iona has now been released from the scene by the coastguard and is en route to Rotterdam as scheduled.’