Four sailors had to jump into the rough waters for a dramatic helicopter rescue

Oslo (AFP) - A Dutch cargo ship which has been adrift in rough seas off Norway for two days following a dramatic rescue of its crew is to be towed to calmer waters Wednesday if weather conditions permit, maritime authorities said.

Two Norwegian tugboats chartered by Dutch company Smit Salvage sailed to the area overnight, and four Smit employees will be lowered onto the stricken Eemslift Hendrika by helicopter, Hans-Petter Mortensholm of the Norwegian maritime authority Kystverket told AFP.

“We are hopeful this can take place in the morning,” Mortensholm said. “Apparently, it’s looking good.”

The Eemslift Hendrika, which was carrying several smaller vessels from Bremerhaven in Germany to Kolvereid in Norway, put out a distress call Monday, reporting a severe list after stormy weather in the Norwegian Sea displaced some of its cargo and it developed engine trouble.

In a dramatic operation by Norwegian rescue services, four of the ship’s 12 crew members had to jump into the glacial water to be plucked out of the sea because the waves were rocking the boat and it was listing dangerously.

Authorities initially feared the ship would capsize and its fuel would spill, but Mortensholm said they now “consider the risk as minimal”.

Having lost one of the boats it was transporting and thanks to a slight improvement in the weather the ship had gained stability, according to Kystverket.

Wind speed remains high at about 15 metres per second and the waves are swelling between six and eight metres (20-25 feet), but the vessel is now around 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the port of Stad on Norway’s west coast.

The ship had been drifting towards the coast since the accident and is now running parallel to it, reducing chances of running aground, according to Kystverket.