Ferry capsizing leaves five crew members missing

Photo of the search-and-rescue for the missing crew of Seatran Ferry 12. Credit: Taiwan Coast Guard

Five of 10 members on a Thai roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) ferry, Seatran Ferry 12, are missing after the vessel capsized near Kaohsiung, Taiwan, just before midnight on 23 October.

The coast guard said that it received a distress signal from Seatran Ferry 12 just seven minutes before midnight on 23 October. Five patrol vessels were dispatched to the scene.

IHS Markit’s AIS data shows that Seatran Ferry 12 had left Takamatsu, Japan, on 13 October, and was due to arrive in Bangkok on 24 October.

IHS Markit’s maritime data shows that Thailand’s Seatran Group had purchased the vessel from Japanese ferry operator Shikoku Ferry in March 2020, and the Thai group was about to take delivery of the ferry when the tragedy struck.

Around 12:29 am on 24 October, a reconnaissance jet spotted the other five crew members in the water, wearing life jackets, and radioed for them to be taken ashore by a tug. Two of the crew members were bleeding from injuries sustained during the ordeal and were conveyed to the hospital.

Preliminary investigations showed that the main and auxiliary engines of the Seatran Ferry 12 were faulty, and the radio and satellite phones on the stricken vessel were also not working. An attempt to tow the ferry to Kaohisung port was thwarted when, amid high waves and strong winds, Seatran Ferry 12 sank.

Around 6:15 am, the coast guard found an empty life raft floating in the water. At present, four naval ships and four patrol vessels continue to search for the five missing crew members in the waters around the incident.