RESCUERS have given up hope of finding any more survivors from a cargo ship that sank in the North Sea off the Dutch coast.
Search teams were last night still looking for the bodies of six missing crewmen, bringing the presumed death toll to 11.
Planes, helicopters and ships resumed the search that was called off in the early hours of yesterday, but the icy conditions made survival virtually impossible.
“Given the water temperature and the amount of time that’s passed, we don’t have any hope for more survivors,” Peter Westenburg, of the Dutch Coast Guard, said.
Four bodies were found on Wednesday night and 13 survivors were rescued. A fifth body was found and retrieved yesterday by a Belgian armed forces helicopter.
The 485ft Baltic Ace sank after colliding with the 440ft container ship Corvus J, en-route from Scotland, in darkness near busy shipping lanes some 40 miles off the coast of the southern Netherlands. The cause of the collision is not known.
The Dutch waterways agency said it has sent two vessels to the area to help guide traffic and to lay buoys around the site of the sunken wreck. One is using sonar equipment to establish where and at what depth the vessel lies on the seabed.
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 its crew of 24 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.
Four of the survivors were flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to a military hospital in Belgium. All are expected to recover. The location of the other two survivors was unclear.
The Baltic Ace was heading from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to Kotka in Finland, and the Cyprus-registered Corvus J was on its way from Grangemouth 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 on Wednesday, but yesterday it began heading towards Antwerp for repairs.
Sandra Groenendal, of the Dutch Safety Board, said responsibility for investigating the tragedy lies with the states under whose flags the ships were sailing – the Bahamas and Cyprus – because the collision happened outside Dutch territorial waters.
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..