Gulf Livestock 1: Company that chartered missing livestock carrier 'devastated' as search suspended

The company that chartered the livestock carrier that went missing off the coast of Japan last week says it is "devastated" by the incident.

"It is with profound sadness that Australasian Global Exports accepts the suspension of active search and rescue operations for those missing at sea from Gulf Livestock 1," the company said in a statement.

"Having chartered the ship for this voyage, we are devastated that our three stockman and veterinarian are among the missing.  We sincerely extend our deepest sympathies to their family and friends along with those of the missing crew."

Forty-three crew members, including two New Zealanders, were onboard the ship when it capsized and sank in the East China Sea. 

Three people have been found since the ship went missing, though one of those people later died.

The ship departed Napier on August 14 bound for Jingtang, China with almost 6000 cattle onboard.

However, the carrier sent a distress signal last Wednesday after running into rough weather caused by Typhoon Maysak and has not been seen since. One of the rescued crew members said the vessel capsized and sank.

Gulf Livestock 1 is owned by Gulf Navigation Holdings, but was chartered by Australasian Global Exports.

Australasian Global Exports called the incident a "heartbreaking and incomprehensible maritime tragedy" and said it wanted to know how it occured.

"Ever since the ship went missing, we have been in contact with families on both sides of the Tasman to exchange what information we had.  We have offered the New Zealand families support and professional counselling services as well," the company said.

"Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions we are unable to personally visit their families as we would have liked to.

"We do wish to acknowledge the authorities on both sides of the Tasman and in Japan, especially Japan Coast Guard, which went into harm’s way to rescue people."

The New Zealanders onboard the ship have been identified as stockmen Scott Harris and Lochie Bellerby.

On Friday maritime lawyer Peter Dawson told RNZ it may be possible for the families of the missing crew members to take legal action following the tragedy.