Philippine authorities on Wednesday notified relatives that the search had been called off and the missing crew presumed dead.

Eighteen crew members, including 16 Filipinos, are thought to have perished when the Rocknes capsized in icy waters off the southwest coast of Norway on Monday.

"The Welfare and Employment Office of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will do all it can to coordinate with the ship's agents to ensure that the necessary assistance is extended to the seafarers and their families," Labour Secretary Patricia Tomas said.

Local manning agents Aboitiz-Jebsen said that of the 24 Filipinos aboard the vessel, 16 were listed as missing.

The eight others, who were rescued, would be repatriated "as soon as they are declared fit to travel".

Goodwill gesture

"Jebsen management has offered to send to Bergen (where the rescue effort is being coordinated), two members each of the families of the missing crew members," the company said in a statement.

"A crew family assistance centre has been set up," while "emergency financial assistance has been given to the families of the crewmembers", it added.

Dolores Crisostomo, head of the assistance and welfare division of the POEA, said the Philippine government would assist in the repatriation of the remains and provide assistance to the relatives, as well as help them claim death benefits and insurance.

Filipinos make up the single largest group of crewmen in the world's merchant shipping fleet.