The Eemslift Hendrika put out a distress call, reporting a severe list after stormy weather in the Norwegian Sea

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 cannot be towed to calmer waters until Thursday due to continuing poor weather, maritime authorities said.

“The weather is forecast to improve tomorrow when the chances of a successful operation are better,” the Norwegian maritime authority Kystverket said on its website Wednesday.

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 hoisted to safety because the waves were rocking the boat and it was listing dangerously.

The vessel is now around 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the port of Stad on Norway’s west coast.

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

Two Norwegian tugboats chartered by Dutch company Smit Salvage sailed to the area overnight, Hans-Petter Mortensholm of Kystverket told AFP.

The salvage operation, which will involve lowering four Smit employees onto the stricken vessel by helicopter, was initially planned for Wednesday morning or afternoon.

“Physical safety (of personnel) is always the top priority in situations like this,” Mortensholm said.

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

The ship had gained stability due to losing one of the boats it was transporting as well as a slight improvement in the weather, according to Kystverket.

Though the waves were smaller on Wednesday than the day before, they were still swelling between six and eight metres (20-25 feet).

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