A maritime disaster unfolded off the coast of Germany earlier today (October 24) when a British cargo ship, the Verity (pictured above), tragically sank following a collision with the Bahamian-registered bulk carrier Polesie.
The incident, which occurred at approximately 04:00 hours in the sea area known as German Bight, has left one seafarer confirmed dead, while several others remain missing.
The Isle of Man-registered Verity, which had departed from the German port of Bremen at 20:00 hrs on October 23, 2023, was carrying a crew of seven when the collision happened. The ship reportedly collided with the Polesie, which managed to remain afloat despite the impact. The collision occurred about 14 nautical miles south-west of the island of Heligoland.
AIS video reconstruction of the collision from Vesselfinder is available here
German authorities launched an immediate search and rescue operation after receiving the alarm just before 05:00 local time. The operation involves multiple assets, including rescue cruisers, police boats, sensor aircraft, and helicopters, all dedicated to locating and saving any survivors.
As a part of the ongoing rescue efforts, two seafarers have been successfully rescued from the sea by the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service. They have been transferred to hospitals for emergency treatment and are reported to be in stable condition. However, the search continues for the four crew members who remain unaccounted for.
The UK's Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is set to conduct a casualty investigation into the incident, with the Isle of Man Ship Registry expressing their gratitude to the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service and their condolences to the affected seafarers and their families.
According to the Allianz Commercial's Safety & Shipping Review, which annually examines the primary causes of shipping incidents and losses on a global scale, vessel collisions are a significant concern in the maritime industry.
In 2022, there were 280 reported collision incidents involving vessels over 100 GT, making collisions the second most common cause of shipping incidents worldwide, following machinery damage or failure. These collisions constituted about 10% of the 3,000+ shipping incidents reported that year.
Over the past decade, from 2013 to the end of 2022, nearly 3,100 collision incidents involving vessels were reported, solidifying collisions as the second leading cause of shipping incidents worldwide, following machinery damage or failure.
While vessel collisions are relatively common, the actual loss of vessels as a result of these incidents is rare. In 2022, only four vessels were lost due to collisions, representing just 1% of the total reported collision incidents. Over the past decade, there were 30 reported cases of total losses from collisions.
The North Sea, British Isles, Bay of Biscay, and English Channel waters experienced 47 reported collision incidents in 2022, with cargo ships being the most frequently involved vessel type.
Various factors can contribute to vessel collision incidents, with human errors, machinery or equipment failures, and adverse weather conditions being common causes.
This isn't the first time the Verity has faced a perilous situation. In 2016, the 300ft cargo ship had to be rescued in rough seas off the North Devon coast after her engine failed, but Verity and her crew were safely brought back to shore after more than 24 hours at sea amid challenging conditions. It was carrying 3,000 tonnes of steel at the time.
Photograph courtesy of Marc Ryckaert, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons