Eleven people are thought to have died when the freighter Baltic Ace sank after hitting a container ship off the coast of Zeeland on Wednesday night.
Rescue teams were able to pull 13 members of the crew to safety and the bodies of four other crew members have since been found. A further seven are still missing, according to media reports.
The search for the seven was stopped in the early hours of Thursday morning. The hunt for survivors was hampered by the bad weather and strong winds, coast guards said. It depends on the weather whether or not the search will be resumed.
The ship went down some 75 kilometres off the coast of Goeree-Overflakkee. The 13 survivors have been taken to Rotterdam and Ostend. The container ship, Corvus J, was largely undamaged.
The 148m Baltic Ace, which sails under the flag of the Bahamas, was carrying cars and sank almost immediately after the collision. It was on its way from Zeebrugge in Belgium to Finland. The Corvus J container ship, registered in Cyprus, was on its way from Grangemouth in Scotland to Antwerp.
The Dutch coast guard said the weather is unlikely to be the reason for the collision. It is more likely the ships had not seen each other, he is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant.
The North Sea is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and the shipping routes are currently being updated to improve safety by the International Maritime Organisation, the Volkskrant said.