Fatal North Sea collision said to be human error

Thu Dec 6, 2012 2:35pm EST
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By Anthony Deutsch and Thomas Escritt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Human error was probably to blame for a collision that killed five crew and sank the Baltic Ace car carrier, its Greek manager said on Thursday, 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 1,400 new cars, mostly Mitsubishis from Japan and Thailand, to the seabed on Wednesday evening.

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 was lost.

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.   Continued...

Dutch fishing boat OUDDORP 6 (front) and a Dutch navy ship take part in rescue efforts after a collision between the Baltic Ace, a car carrier sailing under a Bahamas flag, and the Corvus J, a container ship from Cyprus, in the North Sea December 5, 2012 in this handout photo released to Reuters by the Dutch Defence Ministry December 6, 2012.REUTERS/Koninklijke Marine - Ministerie Van Defensie/Handout