One Dead, Four Missing as UK Ship Sinks in North Sea Collision

German search vessels
SAR vessels are searching the North Sea (Die Seenotretter file photo)

Published Oct 24, 2023 8:21 AM by The Maritime Executive

German authorities are leading a search and rescue mission in the North Sea after two cargo ships collided off the coast of Germany this morning. Two crewmembers from the cargo ship Verity were rescued and the body of the third was recovered, while four others are still missing as the SAR operation continues.

Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies reports that it was informed of a collision between the Verity and a bulker, the Bahamas registered Polesie around 5:00 a.m. local time and immediately launched the SAR operation. Five rescue boats were dispatched to the area which is approximately 12 nautical miles from the island of Helgoland and the German coast. Included in the operation were rescue boats, an emergency tug, and a pilot tender, and they are being supported by a SAR helicopter. The P&O cruise ship Iona which was also in the area joined in the search operation.

The Verity, which sunk after the collision, is reported to have a crew of seven aboard. The vessel built in 2001 and owned by Faversham Ships of the Netherlands is 3,676 dwt. It is unclear if the ship, which is 298 feet in length and has a normal draft of approximately 17 feet, was carrying cargo. She had departed Bremen, Germany on October 23 heading to Immingham in the UK where she was expected to arrive tomorrow. She was registered in the Isle of Man.


Four crewmembers from the Verity remain missing (Faversham Ships)


The other vessel involved in the collision, the Polesie remained afloat and the German authorities are reporting that none of the 22 crew aboard were injured in the collision. The vessel is a handysize bulker; 38,000 dwt and 623 feet in length. She departed Hamburg yesterday, October 23, and was bound for La Coruna, Spain. The vessel was built in 2008 and is managed by Polska Zegluga Morska.

No details have been released on the events leading up to the collision. The German command reports that there were strong winds approaching gale force between 25 and 30 mph (Beaufort 6) in the North Sea. The waves were reported running at 10 feet.

Satellite data analytics company Spire Global reports the collision happened between approximately 4:55 UTC and 5:04 UTC. The Polesie was travelling West by Southwest at 10.7 knots (speed over ground), and the Verity was travelling North by Northwest at 11 knots (speed over ground). The Verity, Spire says, seemed to be accelerating speed just before the collision, going from 8 to 11 knots in approximately two minutes, whereas the Polesie was relatively stabler at around 10.5-11 knots, with a sudden drop in speed happening right after the collision. After the collision, Spire reports the Polesie seemed to turn around and return to the estimated collision placement, about 40-50 minutes later. The Verity seems to have stopped transmitting AIS immediately after the collision.

German authorities ordered the airspace over the accident scene closed to aid the search operations. One of the two recovered crewmembers had already been transferred to a hospital and the second at last report was also being taken ashore for medical treatment.

The P&O cruise ship Iona (184,000 gross tons) was at sea for a day of cruising after having departed Hamburg and responded to the calls for assistance. Passengers aboard are posting pictures of the ship using its spotlights to search the sea. The ship is currently on a cruise from Southampton to Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Bruges and P&O reports it will continue to assist until released by the German authorities. Later in the day, the cruise ship left the location and is now sailing off the coast of the Netherlands.

The SAR team reports that additional medical personnel were being dispatched to the area on helicopters. In addition, the hospital on the Iona was standing by to provide medical assistance if needed.

Late today, German authorities reported due to strong currents, divers had not been able to enter the Verity. The divers were unable to gain information and had to leave the scene because of the strong currents. The search for the four missing crewmembers is continuing into the night, with thermal imaging cameras and night vision devices used to support the search. The plan is to continue the search until after midnight. They are reporting that weather conditions improved slight with the winds and water temperatures, which are currently around 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), giving the rescue workers the chance of finding survivors.

The German authorities report the Polesie is proceeding to Cuxhaven under its own power. The vessel is due to arrive at the German port around 10 p.m. local time.