Dubai, United Arab Emirates – An Emirates-flagged cargo ship, longer than a football field, sank in stormy seas off Iran’s southern coast in the Persian Gulf on Thursday, authorities said. Rescuers attempted to account for all 30 crew members on the ship.
Captain Nizar Qaddoura, operations manager for the company that owns the ship, told The Associated Press the Al Salmy 6 encountered treacherous weather. The choppy waters forced the ship to heel at a dangerous angle and within hours the ship was completely submerged.
Rescuers dispatched from Iran successfully rescued 16 crew members, Qaddoura said, and civilian ships have been asked to help with the rescue effort. Another 11 survivors made it onto life rafts, while one person was yanked from the water and rescued by a nearby tanker. Two crew members were still bobbing in the sea, he said.
The crew consisted of nationals from Sudan, India, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Qaddoura said. The ship had been en route to the port of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq with cars and other cargo. It had left Dubai days earlier.
The ship’s owner, Dubai-based Salem Al Makrani Cargo, specializes in car freighters.
The ship capsized about 30 miles off the coast of Asaluyeh in southern Iran, state news agency IRNA reported. The search and rescue operation was complicated by inclement weather, the report added, and has continued.
Iranian media released images and footage of the ship tipping on its side after being rocked by waves, consistent with previous images of the Al Salmy 6, a roll-on roll-off carrier – so named because cars are on and can leave.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Middle East, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident.
Major oil and cargo shipping routes flow past Iran through the Strait of Hormuz, providing energy supplies from the oil-rich Arabian Gulf States to the rest of the world.
Shipwrecks and other accidents are rare in the busy waters. But dust and sand storms, gale force winds and other inclement weather conditions usually sweep the region as the seasons shift from frigid winter to sizzling summer.
Severe weather began shaking the Persian Gulf on Wednesday, the state-run Meteorological Organization of Iran reported, bringing wind gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour and high waves to Iran’s Bushehr province. The agency issued a “red alert” this week, warning of disruption to maritime activity in the Gulf and damage to offshore assets through Saturday.