11 Missing After Trawler Sinks Off Cape Town

NSRI rescue crew searches for the missing crew of the Lepanto (NSRI)

Published May 20, 2024 2:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Africa's marime authorities have called off a search for half the crew of a lost fishing vessel. The trawler went down in the Atlantic about 34 nautical miles west of the Cape of Good Hope last week, sparking a large-scale search and rescue effort, which was partially successful. 

On Friday afternoon, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)'s response center in Cape Town received a distress call from the F/V Lepanto, a South African fishing trawler with a twenty-member crew. The response center issued a broadcast request for aid to other vessels in the area, and nearly a dozen joined the search effort, along with volunteer search organization NSRI and two aircraft. Nearby fishing vessels quickly found two life rafts, one containing nine survivors. The other raft was empty, and 11 crewmembers remained missing. 

“The MRCC Cape Town assigned search and rescue (SAR) patterns to the available craft, attempting to utilize the remaining daylight as best as possible. Unfortunately, no sighting of any of the 11 missing persons or even a life jacket was reported," SAMSA said in a statement. 

The search continued until after sunset. At this point, with a lack of sightings in favorable weather, the search center called off the SAR effort. The agency thanked the fishing vessels for their help, as well as the companies that contributed the largest number. Half of the vessels in the search were from Sea Harvest, the operator of the lost F/V Lepanto

On Sunday, the body of one victim of the sinking was recovered from the water, along with the remains of two missing dogs. 

"We are devastated by this tragedy and are working closely with the relevant authorities, primarily the South African Maritime Safety Authority, to establish the cause of the accident as soon as possible," said Sea Harvest CEO Konrad Geldenhuys, speaking to local media on Sunday. 

The premier of the Western Cape region and the minister of fisheries both expressed their condolences for the families of the missing.