43 crew members missing after ship carrying 6,000 animals capsizes

Published September 4, 2020
A Filipino crew member from the missing livestock ship drinks water after being rescued by the Japan Coast Guard.  — Reuters
A Filipino crew member from the missing livestock ship drinks water after being rescued by the Japan Coast Guard. — Reuters

TOKYO: More than 40 crew members were missing after a ship carrying cattle from New Zealand to China capsized in stormy weather in the East China Sea, the Japanese coastguard said on Thursday.

A lone crew member from the Gulf Livestock 1 had been rescued so far. Three vessels, four aeroplanes and two divers were taking part in the search.

The ship, with a cargo of nearly 6,000 cattle, sent a distress call from the west of Amami Oshima island in southwestern Japan on Wednesday as Typhoon Maysak lashed the area with strong winds and heavy seas.

Sareno Edvarodo, a 45-year-old chief officer from the Philippines, was rescued on Wednesday night,. By Thursday evening, he was still the only person rescued so far, a coastguard official said, adding the bodies of some cattle had been recovered.

The crew of 43 was made up of 39 people from the Philippines, two from New Zealand, and two from Australia.

According to Edvarodo, the ship lost an engine before it was hit by a wave and capsized, a coastguard spokeswoman said.

When the ship capsized, crew were instructed to put on lifejackets. Edvarodo told the coastguard he jumped into the water and did not see any other crew members before he was rescued.

Pictures provided by the coastguard showed a person in a lifejacket being hauled from choppy seas in darkness.

The Philippines government said it was coordinating with the Japanese coastguard in the search.

Typhoon Maysak made landfall in South Korea on Thursday, bringing lashing winds, and at least two people were killed in the southern city of Busan. Another storm, Typhoon Haishen, was brewing south of Japan and is expected to hit the Korean coast on Sunday or Monday.

Live cattle export in spotlight

The Gulf Livestock 1 departed Napier in New Zealand on Aug. 14 with a cargo of 5,867 cattle bound for the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China. The journey was expected to take about 17 days, New Zealand foreign ministry officials told Reuters.

The 139-metre Panamanian-flagged vessel was built in 2002 and the registered owner is Amman-based Rahmeh Compania Naviera SA, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The ship manager is Hijazi & Ghosheh Co.

Calls to the owner and manager were unanswered.

The young cows were exported by Australia-headquartered Australasian Global Exports, which specialises in live animal exports and owns quarantine facilities in China.

The cows were worth around 20,000 yuan each, said a manager at AGE’s subsidiary Beijing Muhuayuan International Trade Co Ltd.

New Zealand animal rights organisation SAFE said the disaster showed the risks of the live animal export trade.

“These cows should never have been at sea,” said campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald.

“This is a real crisis, and our thoughts are with the families of the 43 crew who are missing with the ship. But questions remain, including why this trade is allowed to continue.”

China has imported more than 46,000 head of cattle from New Zealand so far this year, according to data from China’s customs, mostly to stock the country’s expanding dairy farms.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2020

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