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Two Pinoys killed, five others survive North Sea mishap – DFA

Two Filipinos were killed but five others survived the sea mishap where a ship carrying 1,400 new cars sank off Dutch waters in the North Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday. Rescue workers are still locating three other Filipino seamen who have been missing since Wednesday when car carrier MV Baltic Ace collided with the Corvus J container ship, the DFA 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. However, Dutch rescuers indicated that those missing will not likely be found alive due to freezing water temperature. The Dutch coast guard 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 Bulgarian. The coast guard 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. The Filipinos who survived, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said, are already headed to Rotterdam in Netherlands. “Both our embassies in Brussels and The Hague are in touch with authorities there to ensure adequate assistance are extended to them,” Hernandez said. The Philippine Embassy in Netherlands, he added, is coordinating with the Filipinos’ shipping agent and the owners of the MV Baltic Ace “to make sure that the needs of the seafarers are taken cared of as well as their travel documents” should they wish to be repatriated to the Philippines. The global shipping industry, which carries 80 percent of international trade, employs about 1.2 million seafarers, the bulk of whom come from the Philippines. Human error A report of the Reuters news agency said human error was probably to blame for a collision that killed two Filipinos, two Poles, and a Ukrainian crewmen and sank the Baltic Ace car carrier, its Greek manager said on Thursday. The Dutch Defense 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 night. The cause of the crash was unclear. 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-ton ship was lost. 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. The car carrier, built in 2007, sank in 15 minutes. The wreck is now at a depth of about 25-30 meters near the Noord Hinder shipping route, one of the busiest in the world. 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 six to seven out on sea," a company spokesman said, adding that was not unusual for the time of year. 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. Shipping traffic unaffected Officials said the Corvus J was damaged but resumed its route to Belgium. No delays were caused to shipping traffic in Dutch waters, where about 250,000 vessels pass each year. 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. - with reports from Reuters, Michaela del Callar, VVP, GMA News