P&O Cruises’ Iona has joined search and rescue efforts after two cargo ships collided in the North Sea, crippling one vessel that has now sunk. Crew members from the sunken vessel are still reported missing and multiple vessels are engaged in the search in the hopes of successful rescues.

Iona was not involved in the initial incident but is providing support for the search and is available to offer medical treatment to survivors if needed.

Guests aboard P&O Cruises’ Iona were woken at approximately 5:30 a.m. by emergency announcements, which included crew members being called to muster stations to respond to the situation. Searchlights were already engaged and active, which led to some tense moments for guests until they understood the situation.

According to local reports, the initial incident occurred at approximately 3 a.m. when the cargo vessel Verity collided with another cargo ship, Polesie, roughly 14 miles (23 kilometers) southwest of the German Heligoland archipelago in the North Sea, approximately 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Bremerhaven, Germany.

P&O Iona Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Karis48 / Shutterstock)

Strong winds, fog, and vigorous waves were reported in the region at the time, but it is unknown if weather conditions contributed to the collision.

The 300-foot Verity is reported to have sunk, and four of the ship’s seven crew members remain missing and may be aboard an intact portion of the vessel. Divers are investigating for signs of life, according to a spokesperson from Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies. One crew member is confirmed dead, and two others have been successfully rescued.

Polesie had 22 individuals aboard at the time of the incident, but all are accounted for and no injuries are reported.

Undoubtedly a thorough investigation will be conducted as to the cause of the collision, what contributing factors may have been in play, and whether any potential negligence was involved from either cargo vessel.

Iona was called to assist with the search operations and immediately responded to the summons. The 184,089-gross-ton ship is currently sailing a 7-night “Northern European City Escape” cruise, having departed from Southampton on Saturday, October 21 and called on Hamburg, Germany on Monday. Tuesday is scheduled as a day at sea.

A spokesperson for P&O Cruises has confirmed that there should be no impact on the ship’s remaining itinerary, which includes calling on Rotterdam, Holland on Wednesday and Zeebrugge, Belgium on Friday before returning to Southampton on Saturday, October 28.

Guests onboard Iona report a somber atmosphere with great hope that the rescue operation will be successful. Multiple ships of different sizes and classifications, including an emergency tug, pilot boat, and police patrol boat have been involved in the search efforts, along with helicopter support.

Tracking data shows that Iona had resumed course by late afternoon on Tuesday, released from her assistance. This may have been done as the ship’s support is no longer needed with the arrival of additional rescue vessels with specialized search equipment.

Cruise ships are often called to render assistance to vessels in distress, though not always under such grave circumstances. Different types of rescues may involve disabled fishing or pleasure craft, unseaworthy migrant boats, vessels that may have run aground, or other unusual circumstances.

Earlier this month, for example, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway was called to assist in the rescue of hundreds of migrants near Greece, similar to another rescue in the same region by Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Beyond in late August.

P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer responded to a distress call from a record-seeking mariner south of Vanuatu in early October, and other rescues happen all over the globe.

Every cruise ship captain – as well as the vessel’s crew – is dedicated to preserving life at sea and obligated to respond to such calls whenever possible.

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