Cargo ship overturns off coast of Britain, 8 crew members missing

LONDON (AFP) - Lifeboat crews called off the search for the night on Saturday for the crew of an overturned cargo vessel spotted off the north-east tip of Britain.

Eight people were on board the Cypriot-registered Cemfjord, a cargo ship carrying cement, which capsized around 24km from Wick in north-east Scotland. A passing ferry spotted the upturned hull at around 2.30pm GMT on Saturday. Lifeboats, rescue helicopters and other vessels were involved in the search. The last-known position of the ship was at 1.15pm GMT on Friday.

Brise of Hamburg, managers of the cement carrier, confirmed in a statement that the crew of eight were missing "following a severe accident". "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 crew consists of seven Polish seafarers and one Filipino mariner. The company is in the process of informing the families."

Mr Bill Farquhar, from the local lifeboat station, confirmed to the BBC that the weather had been bad and there was no mayday call.

"It is very, very strange, especially with all the weather technology we have nowadays," he said.

He added: "Whatever happened, it happened very rapidly."

Built in 1984, the 83m vessel successfully completed her classification renewal inspections during December, Brise said.

It was carrying a cargo of 2,000 tonnes of cement from Aalborg in Denmark to Runcorn near Liverpool on the north-west English coast, right round the top of Britain. It was due to arrive on Monday.

The search was to resume at first light on Sunday.