Dutch coastguard resume search for crew of sunk ship in N. Sea

AMSTERDAM Thu Dec 6, 2012 2:05am EST

AMSTERDAM Dec 6 (Reuters) - The search for seven crew missing after a cargo ship sank in the North Sea will resume on Thursday morning, the Dutch coastguard said.

Four died and 13 were rescued after the Baltic Ace, a car carrier sailing under a Bahamas flag, collided with the Corvus J, a container ship from Cyprus, on Wednesday evening about 40-50 km (25-30 miles) off Rotterdam port in an important North Sea shipping lane.

"We stopped searching in the night and as soon as it is daylight we will start again with an airplane and helicopters," a coastguard official told Reuters.

"The chance of finding any survivors is very slim."

The official declined to give his name because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

The cause of the collision was unclear, but the British Met Office had predicted gale-force winds and rain in the area.

By Thursday morning, weather conditions had improved, the coastguard said.

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, Dutch media reported.

The coastguard said the Corvus J was still in the area and was not badly damaged in the collision. Shipping traffic was not disrupted, he said.

Operations at Rotterdam Port were not affected by the collision, a port spokesman told Reuters late on Wednesday. Rotterdam is Europe's biggest port and handles commodities and manufactured goods. (Reporting by Sara Webb and Anthony Deutsch; editing by Patrick Graham)

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