THE wreck of the cargo ship Cemfjord, which sank in the Pentland Firth with eight men on board who are presumed dead, was yesterday found on the seabed.
It was discovered in the eastern approaches to the Firth by the lighthouse tender, Pharos, using sonar equipment.
The news comes as an investigation into the sinking of the bulk carrier on Saturday will look at the possibility that an unsecure cargo of cement may have played a part in the tragedy.
The management company of the Cemfjord, which capsized off the shores of Orkney, said all possibilities into the sinking would be examined. Tony Redding, a spokesman for the German shipping company Brise of Hamburg, said it would take time to piece together exactly what happened to the Cypriot-registered vessel, but they would not rule out any set of circumstances until the probe was complete.
A salvage operation is being considered but could be delayed for several days as bad weather, including more high winds and snow, is forecast to hit the north of Scotland.
Investigators from the Department of Transport’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) are on site in a bid to determine the circumstances of the capsize.
Sending in divers will depend on weather conditions. A spokesman said: “We will work with the owners and insurers to see about salvage.
“The vessel is sitting in 60 metres of water. We will be looking at the state of the vessel and what it was carrying.
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“In terms of the the recovery of the crew, under maritime law, it is something for the owners to address. Our job is to try to find out what we can that caused the incident.”
Mr Redding said they were co-operating with the official investigation and were also looking at the salvage of the vessel in the hope of recovering the missing crew.
Asked about the possibility of an unsecure load being a factor in the capsize, he said everything would be considered, adding: “When you are investigating, you are looking for any abnormal issue. Obviously the one we are aware of is the weather, which was extreme at the time of the accident.”
But he said all factors would be considered, adding: “It was a violent storm and it seems likely that the weather would have been a factor but, until we have some better idea of what happened, I can’t say how much of a factor.
“It must have played some part in what happened but it will take some time to put the picture together because, sadly, we’re not in a position to interview the crew and the vessel is submerged in around 223ft of water.”
The Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) sent its ship, Pharos, to help with the investigation.
A spokesman said: “In line with its statutory role to ensure that wrecks that may become an obstruction or danger to safety of navigation are marked, the NLB despatched its vessel Pharos to the site of the Cemfjord wreck. The ship will remain on location to assist the MAIB and Marine and Coastguard Agency in the coming days as they require.”
The crew on the NorthLink ferry Hrossey alerted the coastguard after spotting the Cemfjord’s upturned hull around ten miles east of the Pentland Skerries, about 15 miles from Wick, at around 2:30pm on Saturday.
The 272ft bulk cement carrier had been bound for Runcorn, in Cheshire.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Cemfjord was involved in an incident last July when it was grounded off Denmark.
A Russian captain of the vessel was found to have excessive levels of alcohol in his blood and was dismissed. The company said that no one was injured and there was no pollution.
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