NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Major search after ship overturns off north of Scotland

Media captionFerry passengers talk about what they saw

A major search operation has been launched after a vessel overturned off the north of Scotland.

Eight people are reported to have been on board the Cypriot-registered Cemfjord, a cargo ship carrying cement.

The upturned hull was found by a passing ferry in the Pentland Firth.

The search has now been called off for the night, but the Maritime and Coastguard Agency says a tug will still illuminate the area and warn shipping, until the operation resumes on Sunday.

Four lifeboats, two rescue helicopters and other vessels are involved in the search for the crew. Shetland Coastguard is co-ordinating rescue efforts.

The NorthLink ferry Hrossey also took part in the early stages of the operation.

The 83m Cemfjord had been sailing to Runcorn in Cheshire.

The last confirmed sighting of the vessel was at about 13:00 on Friday. It is understood the alarm was raised by the crew of the ferry Hrossey at 14:30 on Saturday.

Brise of Hamburg, managers of the Cemfjord, said in a statement that the crew consisted of seven Poles and a Filipino.

It added: "No distress call was received from the vessel. Bad weather prevailed in the area at the time and conditions remain difficult at the scene, with storm force winds.

"The company is in the process of informing the families."


According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, they reported no survivors in the immediate vicinity.

As darkness fell, lifeboats from Stromness, Scrabster, Longhope and Wick were searching the area along with the helicopters, the Shetland coastguard aircraft and an RAF rescue helicopter.

Bill Farquhar from the Wick RNLI station said: "We got a call this afternoon about two o'clock that the Shetland ferry - the Hrossey - she had spotted the hull of a coaster upside down 10 miles east of Pentland Skerries.

"The last known position on marine traffic was at quarter past one yesterday, so that was the last known position we had of the ship.

"The weather at that time yesterday was pretty, pretty, bad."

He added: "I don't know what happened after that and I don't think anyone does to tell you the truth."

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