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Scottish sailors lost at sea: Searchers stood down amid fading hope for lost crew

By Staff Reporter

Hope for eight sailors feared lost at sea near Scotland faded last night as lifeboats involved in the search began returning to their home ports.

A major search effort was mounted after the upturned hull of the Cypriot-registered Cemfjord was spotted in the waters of the Pentland Firth, north of Scotland, on Saturday.

There has been no sign of the eight crew members, made up of seven Poles and one Filipino.

The 83-metre bulk cement carrier, which had been bound for Runcorn, Cheshire, sank below the water yesterday.

The RNLI said its lifeboats have been stood down and are returning to their ports.

It is understood that air and coastal searches are continuing.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the search had involved two helicopters and four lifeboats, assisted by coastguard rescue teams.

Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Our thoughts are with the families of the missing crew at this difficult time.

"I would like to pay tribute to the work of the coastguard rescue teams from Kirkwall, St Margaret's Hope, Duncansby, Scrabster and Wick involved in the search and rescue operation.

"Marine Scotland and the Scottish government stand ready to assist if required."

The last confirmed sighting of the ship was at about 1pm on Friday.

The crew on the NorthLink ferry Hrossey alerted the coastguard after spotting its upturned hull around 10 miles east of the Pentland Skerries, at around 2.30pm on Saturday.

German shipping company Brise of Hamburg, which manages the ship, confirmed there were eight people on board, and that there had been no distress call.

Hrossey passenger Caitlin Ditchfield said: "We realised we had actually stopped. Looking out the window my sister noticed the hull of this giant ship, sort of out of the ocean.

"The captain gave an announcement to say they had contacted the coastguard, that we were actually the first to come across this, and they had asked us to start conducting a search for any debris or any lifeboats."

She said it had been "quite a rough crossing" but added that conditions were "not too bad" when they spotted the overturned vessel. She added: "Everyone was trying to help with the search, looking out the windows to see what they could see."

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