Gulf Livestock 1: Family of missing Kiwi crew member remain hopeful after 'significant debris' found

The family of a New Zealander who was on the missing livestock vessel Gulf Livestock 1 says they remain hopeful after possible signs of life were found by a privately funded search team.

Lochie Bellerby was one of two New Zealanders on the ship that capsized and sank in the East China Sea last month during a typhoon. 

The vessel was carrying a crew of 43 and almost 6000 cattle when it disappeared on route to China after leaving Napier in August.

The Japanese Coast Guard found three people in the sea following the sinking, though one of those men later died.

On Thursday, Harry Morrison, a friend of one of the two Australian crew members onboard, told 9News Australia that a privately funded search team had found possible signs of life near where the vessel sank.

"We have been privately funding a search and rescue for two-and-a-half weeks and we have narrowed it down into an area," Morrison said.

"We're finding a lot of debris from the boat, we've found two dead cattle on an island.

"We've found parts of a life raft, we've found life rings, we've found life jackets."

The debri was found after a search of the Tokara Islands.
The debri was found after a search of the Tokara Islands. Photo credit: Supplied

On Friday Sue Sherburd, spokesperson for the family of Bellerby, said they continued to hold out hope.

"The Bellerby family are hopeful of there being signs of life following the sighting of significant debris thought to be from Gulf Livestock 1," Sherburd said in a statement.

"It includes a canopy of a Viking life-raft, a life ring, a single blue boot, several dead cows, and three orange barrels strapped together. 

"The debris was found following a privately funded search of the Tokara Islands, a chain of 12 small islands of which seven are inhabited."

So far, the private search has used donated money to cover costs of AU$50,000 (NZ$54,000) for fixed-wing flights and AU$75,000 (NZ$81,000) for helicopter flyovers.

"The Bellerby family are contributing funds to this search and wish to thank the generous people of New Zealand who have donated funds to the New Zealand Givealittle page setup," Sherburd said.

The information obtained by the search team had been passed on to the Japanese Coast Guard by Australian authorities and the family was working with maritime experts to further identify the items and other potential areas of interest, Sherburd said.

She added that the family was calling on the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade "for official diplomatic support with the Japanese Coast Guard while the window of survivability remains possible".