P&O cruise ship joins rescue mission after UK-bound cargo vessel Verity sinks

At least one person is dead after Verity, which was on its way to Immingham, sunk in the North Sea. Credit: Darren B Hillman/CC BY-ND 2.0

A rescue mission is underway after a British cargo ship sank following a collision with another vessel in the North Sea.

One person is reported to have died, while two have been rescued after the Verity sank about 14 miles southwest of the German island of Heligoland as it made its way to the port of Immingham, North East Lincolnshire. Four others are still missing.

It is not yet clear where the crew members are from.

Robby Renner, Germany’s head of Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, told a news conference in Cuxhaven that it is possible the remaining crew are still alive inside the sunken vessel and that his team is doing “everything humanly possible” to rescue them.

Michael Ippich, of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, said the water temperature at the time of collision was 12C (54F), which people can survive for about 20 hours.

Mr Ippich told reporters the conditions on the spot are "extremely difficult".

“Because of the weather and visibility, it’s incredibly difficult to conduct such an operation," he said.

Cruise company P&O confirmed one of its ships, the Iona, joined the search and rescue mission on Tuesday morning, saying it was "[complying] with international maritime law" as well as acting consistently with "the company’s moral and legal obligations".

A spokesperson later said the Iona had been "released" from the search and was continuing its journey to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Verity collided with the larger Polesie, a Bahamian ship travelling from Hamburg to La Coruna, Spain. Credit: Darren B Hillman/CC BY-ND 2.0

The Verity, a 91m-long, 2,600-tonne vessel which is registered in the Isle of Man, was heading for Immingham when it crashed into a larger cargo ship, Polesie, in the early hours of Tuesday.

While the Bahamas-flagged Polesie stayed afloat, the Verity, which had departed from Bremen in Germany, became submerged.

Germany's transport minister Volker Wissing posted on social media thanking those involved with the rescue operation.

He said: "After the collision between two ships off Heligoland, my thoughts are with the crew members and their families.

"I would like to thank the rescue teams who have been on duty since early this morning.

"They do everything they can to save the missing people."

Faversham Ships Ltd, which owns the Verity, described the incident as “ongoing” and said it was working with local authorities.

The Isle of Man government said the island's ship registry was informed of the incident this morning.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, it said it was "deeply saddened" to learn of the crew member's death, but thanked the vessels involved with the search and rescue operation and said the UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch would now be conducting an investigation into the crash.

It also said the two rescued crew members were "doing well" in hospital, and said it was thinking of all the crew and their loved ones.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office has also been approached for comment.

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