TWO fishermen spent nine hours in a liferaft after their boat sank in the North Sea.

The pair had been fishing 12 miles east of Sunderland today (Monday) when their vessel appeared to hit a submerged object and sank so quickly that they were unable to make a distress call.

Their liferaft floated free of their vessel, as it is designed to do, and the pair were able to climb on board.

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At 4.40 pm, the Dutch yacht ‘Jager’ came across the fishermen. They took the two men onboard their boat and contacted Humber Coastguard to inform them of what had happened.

The coastguard requested the help of the Hartlepool RNLI Lifeboat and they picked the two men up from the yacht and brought them to shore.

Mike Puplett, Humber Coastguard Watch Manager said: “Both of the fishermen are now safe and well, although a little shaken by their ordeal.

"We’d like to thank the Dutch yacht ‘Jager’ which rescued the men and went out of their way to ensure their safety.

“The fishing vessel’s liferaft was a life-saver today and this incident highlights how important it is to ensure that liferafts are properly maintained and able to float free of the boat should the worst happen.

"Fishermen should wear personal flotation devices at all times whilst on deck. Even if the liferaft floats free, getting into one is no mean feat, especially if the weather is more volatile than today’s relatively calm seas.

"Although the liferaft has been drifting for nine hours, we are still hopeful that we will be able to find the wreckage of the boat using our search and rescue information system (SARIS) which is a computer programme that allows us to plot the drift of vessels."

The counter pollution branch and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch have been informed.