A LIVESTOCK vessel carrying 43 crew members, believed to include two Australians, and almost 6000 cattle from New Zealand has disappeared in the East China Sea near Japan after issuing a distress signal during Typhoon Maysak early yesterday morning.
Of the 43 crew on board 39 were from the Philippines, and two each are reported to be from New Zealand and Australia.
The vessel, the Gulf Livestock 1, was carrying 5867 cattle which were loaded in Napier in New Zealand on August 14 and was travelling enroute to Tangshan in China.
The Gulf Livestock 1 issued a distress signal in the early hours of yesterday morning when it was about 185km off the small island of Amami Oshima south west if Japan.
Powerful winds have hampered large-scale air and sea search efforts.
ABC Television reported this afternoon that searchers have found one crew member from the Philippines and have also reportedly found one empty lifeboat from the vessel.
The ship has not been located and all communication with it has been lost.
Livestock carrier goes missing in the East China Sea
The GULF LIVESTOCK 1 has disappeared, probably hit by high waves & strong winds caused by typhoon #MAYSAK, our data shows. The search for the livestock carrier in load began as concern for the safety of 43 crew onboard rises pic.twitter.com/6H3yGOkUqr
— MarineTraffic (@MarineTraffic) September 2, 2020
The Gulf Livestock 1 was carrying cattle from New Zealand on this journey, believed to be dairy heifers, but is also a regular visitor to Australian shores.
It is accredited by the Australian Marine Safety Authority to transport livestock from Australia. In June it carried cattle from Townsville to Indonesia, followed by a run from Portland to China in July, before stopping on the return leg to take on fuel in Gladstone before crossing the Tasman to New Zealand to load cattle for its current voyage.
It is understood the consignment was being shipped by an exporter that operates out of both Australia and New Zealand.
The vessel was built in 2002 as a container ship and was converted into a livestock carrier in 2012. It is currently owned United Arab Emirates based shipping company Gulf Navigation.
The ship was formerly known as the Rahmeh, a sister ship to the Jawan which experienced stability issues after loading cattle at Portland in December 2018, requiring stability rectification works in Singapore.
The Gulf Livestock 1 experienced stability issues before a voyage from Broome to Indonesia in May last year, according to an Independent Observer’s report of the voyage.
“Due to stability and navigation issues identified by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), the departure date of the vessel was delayed for one week to allow these issues to be resolved,” the IO reported.
Some Australian livestock export companies have lobbied in recent years for industry and Government regulators to introduce tougher new standards for shipping, including urging the phasing out of ‘converted’ livestock ships in favour of modern purpose-built livestock carriers to carry Australian livestock. This unfolding tragedy appears set to refocus renewed scrutiny on vessels operating in the trade.
Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton said the industry’s thoughts are with everyone effected.<
“The search is still underway, our thoughts and concerns are with those effected and the families of the crew,” he said.
“It is obviously a very uncertain time, we’re doing what we can to assist but a lot is being done at the consular level as the search is still ongoing.”
- More to come