Ship, ferry collide on Dutch canal, skipper

22nd October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A cargo ship collided with a small barge on a Dutch canal near the central city of Utrecht on Friday, leaving the skipper of the barge presumed missing, police and the man's employer said.

"A German cargo ship collided with a small barge on the Amsterdam-Rijn canal around 7:00 am (0500 GMT) this morning" at Nieuwer Ter Aa, northwest of Utrecht, the national police KLPD said in a statement, adding that the barge "capsized".

"The skipper ... has not yet been found," it said seven hours after the man went missing. "The search is ongoing."

Having initially said it was possible the barge had come loose from its mooring and had been floating freely, with no-one on board when it was hit, the police later said the skipper was in fact believed to have been on board.

"His car was found" near the office from where he worked, said the statement, adding that an eyewitness had come forward and was being questioned.

The company that manages the barge for the Dutch government said: "We fear the worst".

"It is unlikely that he will be found," Swets ODV spokesman Leonard van Halst told AFP four hours after the skipper's disappearance, adding that no-one else was believed to have been on board the ill-fated barge.

The barge is used to transport bicycles and pedestrians across the canal.

The KPLD said a massive search had been launched with divers "for the skipper and other possible casualties".

A police helicopter was scanning the area with heat sensors and infrared cameras. A dredging team has also been deployed.

All shipping traffic on the canal has been halted.

Police had questioned the captain of the German cargo ship, said the statement.

"He was tested for alcohol and was found to be sober."

© 2010 AFP

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