Written by Rebecca Buchan -
A salvage operation is under way after a seafarer was lost when stormy seas swamped his ship at the weekend.
Eleven other crew members on board the VOS Sailor had to be rescued on Saturday morning when the vessel was damaged and started taking water.
Last night, an Invergordon-based tug was making her way to the stricken vessel to start the recovery process.
It is believed it will be about two days before the ship can be brought back to port. The VOS Sailor, which is an emergency response and rescue vessel, had been operating in the Balmoral oil field 120 miles off Aberdeen.
Grampian Police said one man was believed to have been killed and his body had still not been recovered.
Coastguards launched a rescue mission just before 4.30am after a nearby installation heard a “faint” mayday call.
The Coastguard search- and-rescue helicopter from Sumburgh, an RAF Sea King helicopter from Lossiemouth and Bond 1 – the BP Jigsaw helicopter – were all scrambled and the 11 remaining crew members were winched to safety. They were taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for a check-up.
At the time of the incident, winds in the area were reported to be around 80mph and there were 21ft waves.
Non-essential crew on the nearby North Sea Producer – a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit – were also evacuated to other rigs as a precaution because the disabled boat was drifting towards it. The 140ft vessel was operated by Aberdeen-based Vroon Offshore Services.
A spokesman for the company said: “Vroon Offshore Services Aberdeen can confirm that at approximately 5am its offshore support vessel VOS Sailor suffered damage and has become disabled following severe weather conditions in the Balmoral field off Aberdeen.
“Immediately after the incident emergency services were asked for assistance. Eleven of the 12 crew on board have been evacuated from the ship by Coastguard helicopters and have been transported to Aberdeen hospital.
“One crew member of the VOS Sailor is currently missing. Authorities have started a search and rescue for the missing seafarer.
“Meanwhile, Vroon Offshore Services are in the process of contacting the next of kin of the crew of VOS Sailor.
“The company’s emergency response team has mustered and – in close co-ordination with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency – is taking all measures to bring the vessel back under control.”