Families Plead for Search to Resume for Missing Livestock Carrier

families call for search and resuce to resume for missing livestock carrier
One of the seafarers rescued from the Gulf Livestock 1 - courtesy of Japan Coast Guard

Published Sep 14, 2020 7:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Distraught family members of the missing seafarers from the livestock carrier lost off Japan, the Gulf Livestock 1, launched efforts over the weekend pleading for the search and rescue efforts to continue in an attempt to locate their loved ones. They gained the attention of governments and are continuing efforts to increase pressure to not give up on the efforts.

The Gulf Livestock 1 was sailing from New Zealand to China with 43 people aboard as well as 5,800 dairy cows when the ship encountered a typhoon off Japan on September 2. According to accounts provided by the two survivors that the Japan Coast Guard was able to locate, the ship was struggling in heavy seas when it began to take on water. It lost power and capsized when it was hit by large waves from the typhoon. A third sailor was also located unconscious in the water and later pronounced dead in a Japanese hospital. The Japan Coast Guard announced that it was stopping the dedicated search and rescue effort at the end of last week after not locating any additional people or debris from the ship. They said they would maintain their normal patrols of the region.

“We are so desperate for the search and rescue (SAR) considering that the Japan Coast Guard has resumed its normal patrol schedules. We have been pleading from the shipowner Gulf Navigation Holdings to help in intensifying the SAR but to our dismay, we have not gotten any response. There are still 40 missing crewmen who are our brother, son, and father. We need to look for them and bring them home safely. Please help us,” wrote the sister of the captain of the Gulf Livestock 1 in a message.

Similar pleading messages appeared in the media especially in New Zealand and Australia as well as the Philippines from family members calling for the search to continue. The sister of the captain and some of the other families in the Philippines also launched an effort #Save The Forty to keep attention on their plight. 

Another family member in Sydney, Australia started a petition on Charge.org addressed to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade calling for their assistance. In the petition he says that the Australian Consular Emergency Centre reported that all crew members except three were on the bridge in life jackets, ready to enter life vessels before the ship capsized. He notes that one lifeboat and four auto-deployed life rafts are still unaccounted, asking why the search was suspended. As of September 14, nearly 51,000 people have signed the petition launched by Elliot Cohen.

Responding to all of the pleas, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters speaking with the media announced that his country was exploring with the international community the possibly of mounting an effort to find the sunken ship and retrieve its voyage recorder or “black boxes.” He said on New Zealand TV, “We know how much it would mean to the families of those on the ship to understand more about what happened to cause this tragic loss of life.”

While experts agree that it would be extremely difficult to locate the vessel’s data recorders they point to the National Transportation Safety Board’s 2016 success in recovering the black box from the El Faro that was lost with all hands near the Bahamas in 2015 in a hurricane.