THE wreck of a cement carrier which sank off Orkney with eight dead crew presumed on board is to be left as a sea grave.
The owners of the cargo ship Cemfjord confirmed the vessel will remain on the sea bed and no attempt would be made to retrieve the missing bodies.
An investigation is continuing into the mysterious sinking in the Pentland Firth last month.
The Cemfjord was last known to be travelling west through the firth on 2 January. Its upturned hull was found by a Northlink ferry the following day.
No sign of the crew was found despite a major search.
It is believed the vessel was overwhelmed so suddenly that their bodies may be still on board.
Electronic devices that should have alerted the coastguard to the sinking did not activate.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is investigating. It recently completed two surveys of the wreck, which is lying in around 270ft of water. The only damage to the ship is understood to have been caused by the vessel coming to rest on the bottom of the sea.
Tony Redding, spokesman for owner Hamburg-based owners Brise, said: “As far as we are concerned, the vessel should be undisturbed. It should be regarded as a sea grave.”
He said it was a difficult issue for the families.
Mr Redding added: “It is widely understood in the maritime community that it is inappropriate for others to risk themselves to recover bodies. The vessel is lying more than 200ft deep. The currents are strong there and visibility is extremely poor. A period of good weather would also be needed and that is unlikely at this time of year.”
A private memorial service will be held in Poland later this month.
Relatives will gather at a church in the port of Gydnia on 21 February to remember their missing loved ones. It is also planned that the families will visit Caithness in the summer for a memorial service at the site of the wreck.
The crew were master Pawel Chruscinski, 43, chief officer Jaroslaw Orlov, 45, chief engineer Roman Tamas, 56, and seamen Henryk Dubanowski, 55, Tomasz Kwiatkowski, 31, Artur Podrazka, 24, and Artur Wegorek, also 24, all from Poland. The eighth member of the crew was Filipino seaman Jerome Narvasa, 32.
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