Families of the 40 missing crew members of livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 have launched a privately funded search operations to find survivors. The Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) called off official searches on 10 September.
The Panama-flagged vessel lost its power, capsized, and sank off the southwest coast of Japan after being hit by Typhoon Maysak on 2 September. The ship was carrying 43 seafarers and 5,800 cattle on board. Once Typhoon Maysak had abated, the JCG launched a search-and-rescue (SAR) operation and recovered the chief officer on 3 September. Two other crew members were rescued on 4 September, although one died later that day in the hospital.
Families of crew members from Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines petitioned their respective governments for a renewed search. The families created a Facebook and GoFundMe campaign, which collected USD112,305 as of 1 October. In response to the failed relaunch of an official SAR, representatives of the Facebook page posted on 28 September that they have started a private search. Five fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter have been deployed using the donated funds. During the search, debris was spotted around uninhabited islands in the coastal regions of Japan.
“We are continuing the search efforts with the remaining funds and looking to raise more to keep the SAR going and to expand the search area. We have reason to believe our boys are out there waiting to be found,” said the Facebook post.
According to a source close to the families, this reasoning is based on the survivors’ accounts who claimed the captain had mustered the majority of the crew members to the bridge, with lifejackets on, and were prepared to abandon ship. Only one 25-man lifeboat was recovered by the JCG, the source told SAS, leaving a second lifeboat and several life rafts unaccounted for.
“Any further funds will go towards larger aircraft [to search greater areas], chartering boats [to investigate these areas of interest further], along with getting individuals to inspect anything of interest in person,” said the Facebook post.
According to IHS Markit data, Gulf Livestock 1 left Napier, New Zealand, on 13 August, and was en route to Tangshan, China, when it was hit by Typhoon Maysak.
SAS has contacted the Panama Maritime Authority, JCG, and vessel owners Gulf Navigation for comment.