Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 (front) and a Dutch navy ship
take part in rescue efforts after a collision between the
Baltic Ace and the Corvus J in the North Sea.
REUTERS/Koninklijke Marine - Ministerie Van
Human error was probably to blame for a collision that
killed five crew and sank the Baltic Ace car carrier, its Greek
manager says, and Dutch rescuers said it was unlikely six
missing seamen would be found alive.
The Dutch Defence Ministry said conditions were treacherous
when the Corvus J container ship and the Baltic Ace collided,
sending 1400 new cars, mostly Mitsubishis from Japan and
Thailand, to the seabed on Wednesday evening (local time).
But Panagiootis Kakoliris, operations manager at Stamco Ship
Management Co., Ltd. which managed the Baltic Ace, told
Reuters sea conditions were normal when the 23,500-tonne ship
The cause of the crash, which killed two Poles, two Filipinos
and a Ukrainian, was unclear.
Kakoliris said technical failure was extremely unlikely
because the ship was just five years old, in very good
condition and had passed a safety inspection in August.
"We had a very violent collision which was the reason for the
quick sinking of the vessel," Kakoliris said. "It was most
probably hit in the side and that's why water entered in huge
quantities with this result.
"You cannot control some things. This happened in good
weather, normal weather. There was good visibility, so I feel
most probably there was a human error," Kakoliris said. He
did not say who he thought was responsible for the collision.
It was not known if the Polish captain, who was released from
a hospital, had spoken to authorities about the collision 50
nautical miles from Rotterdam, Europe's largest port.
The owners of the Corvus J, German shipping firm Juengerhans,
did not discuss responsibility for the collision in a
statement published on its website. It said it would "offer
its full cooperation into the investigation."
"The only thing we know from the crew is that there was a
wind force of 6-7 out on sea," a company spokesman said,
adding that was not unusual for the time of year.
The car carrier, built in 2007, sank in 15 minutes. The wreck
is now at a depth of about 25-30 metres near the Noord Hinder
shipping route, one of the busiest in the world.
NO DUTCH JURISDICTION
Dutch authorities said they would not launch a criminal
investigation because the accident took place outside their
territorial waters and neither of the ships was Dutch.
Cyprus and the Bahamas could still ask the Netherlands to
investigate through bilateral requests.
The Dutch coastguard said cold, snow, three-meter-high waves
and gale-force winds meant there was only a slim chance of
finding alive any of the missing crew, who included a
The coastguard said 13 of the 24 crew were rescued on
Wednesday after survivors scrambled into life rafts and were
winched to safety by helicopters, or picked up by ships.
Karen Gelijns, a spokeswoman for the Dutch Defence Ministry,
said: "It was a wild night, there were force 6 winds, very
rough seas, and it was snowing." Gelijns said the ship sank
so quickly "nobody would have had time to put on protective
SHIPPING TRAFFIC UNAFFECTED
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.
Officials said the Corvus J was damaged and resumed its route
to Belgium. No delays were caused to shipping traffic in
Dutch waters, where about 250,000 vessels pass each year.
"It is very busy route," said Edwin de Feijter, a spokesman
for Rijkswaterstaat, a directorate whose responsibilities
include the shipping lanes in the Dutch part of the North
Sea, adding that the ship sank near rather than in the route.
The Baltic Ace was managed by Stamco Ship Management Co.
Ltd., based in Piraeus, Greece, and owned by Isle of
Man-based Ray Car Carriers. It was insured for between $50
million and $60 million, two sources said.
Insurance Insider said the loss caps a difficult year for the
marine insurance sector including $1.16 billion in claims
from the cruise ship Costa Concordia and $2 billion to $3
billion in losses from Hurricane Sandy.