BREAKING NEWS: Major rescue operation underway after cargo ship sinks in North Sea

Four crew members die and seven missing after cargo and container ships collide in the North Sea
Thirteen members of the crew rescued

|

UPDATED:

23:53 GMT, 5 December 2012

Four members of the crew of a ship that collided with another in the North Sea have died.

A further seven are missing after the crew of the Baltic Ace took to life rafts after colliding with a container ship in freezing conditions about 40 miles from the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Thirteen members of the crew have been rescued. Four of the survivors were being flown to a hospital in Rotterdam and seven to an airbase in Belgium.

Collision: Four members of the crew of the Baltic Ace have died after the vessel collided with a container ship in the North Sea. A further seven are still missing (file picture)

Collision: Four members of the crew of the Baltic Ace have died after the vessel collided with a container ship in the North Sea. A further seven are still missing (file picture)

The condition of the Corvus J was unknown but it is understood the vessel was not in immediate danger following the incident. It is understood the 12-man crew were all still on board

The condition of the Corvus J was unknown but it is understood the vessel was not in immediate danger following the incident. It is understood the 12-man crew were all still on board

The Baltic Ace is understood to have collided with the container ship the Corvus J in the busy shipping lanes.

Dutch coastguard spokesman Peter Verburg confirmed that two life boats and a helicopter were pulling crew members out of four life rafts found near the scene of the collision.

He said that helicopters had picked up 11 crew members on the life rafts while two others had been rescued by passing ships.

Rescuers were using infrared cameras to hunt for more survivors.

'We still hope to find them,' Kees Brinkman, a spokesman for rescuers, told Dutch television after the collision. But, he added, 'their chances of survival are shrinking.'

The condition of the Corvus J was unknown but it is understood the vessel was not in immediate danger following the incident. Mr Vorburg said that the 12-man crew were all still onboard.

Accident: The collision involving the two ships happened around 40 miles off the Dutch port of Rotterdam

Accident: The collision involving the two ships happened around 40 miles off the Dutch port of Rotterdam

'It is badly damaged, but not in danger of sinking,' he said, adding that the cause of the collision was not yet known.

'At the moment we are solely focused on getting the people to safety,' he added.

Dutch media reported that the Baltic Ace was en route from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Kotka in Finland, while the Corvus J was going from Grangemouth in Scotland to Antwerp, Belgium.

Rotterdam port is Europe’s biggest and a disruption to shipping lanes in the vicinity could affect a wide range of goods in and out of Europe.

No one at the port authority was available to comment.

Cargo ship sinks in North Sea