A Southampton-based cruise ship is searching for survivors after a British cargo ship sank following a collision with another vessel in the North Sea.

The P&O-owned Iona, which left Southampton three days ago for Hamburg, Rotterdam and Bruges, is one of several vessels involved in a major rescue operation.

The Verity collided with another cargo ship, Polesie, at around 5am about 14 miles southwest of the German island of Helgoland.

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The 300ft vessel, which was on its way from Bremen in Germany to the British port of Immingham in Lincolnshire, sank soon after the impact.

One person is reported to have been pulled from the water and is receiving medical treatment. But the search for other survivors is being hindered by 30mph winds and 10ft waves. 

Following the collision the Polesie remained afloat with 22 people on board.

Two rescue cruisers, an emergency tug, a pilot boat, a police patrol boat and a helicopter are helping with the search. 

A helicopter is also involved in the search as well as an emergency tug, a pilot boat and a police patrol boat.

The German emergency command said it also has a sensor aircraft flying over the sea in order to obtain more information on the whereabouts of Verity.

A P&O spokesperson told the Daily Echo: “Iona is currently involved in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Germany.

"The incident is ongoing and Iona’s cooperation complies with international maritime law as well as being consistent with the company’s moral and legal obligations.

"Iona is scheduled to be at sea today and this event should have no impact upon tomorrow’s scheduled call to Rotterdam or the onward itinerary.”