Missing Livestock Ship Prompts Search Off Japan

The Japanese Coast Guard was searching rough waters on Thursday for a livestock ship that went missing in the East China Sea with dozens of crew members and nearly 6,000 cows aboard as a typhoon barreled through the region.

A patrol ship rescued a crew member just before midnight on Wednesday, hours after the vessel sent a distress signal in the middle of the night from about 100 nautical miles west of southwestern Japan, officials said. A photo of the rescue released by the Coast Guard showed a crew member bobbing in dark waters amid choppy seas.

The rescued man, a 45-year-old Filipino, was hospitalized on the Japanese island of Amami Oshima and was able to walk, Yuichiro Higashi, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, said on Thursday. He said that patrol ships were continuing to search for other crew members.

The ship was believed to be carrying 43 crew members, including 39 from the Philippines, the Japanese Coast Guard said. The foreign ministries of New Zealand and Australia each said that two of their citizens were among the crew. Officials said they were providing consular assistance to the crew members’ families but could not comment further because of privacy concerns.

The episode raises fresh questions about transporting live animals by sea.

Millions of cattle and sheep are transported by sea every year, a trade that generates hefty profits for meat producers in countries like Australia and New Zealand. But animal rights advocates say that such journeys are often too long, regulations are not up to scratch and the rules are often flouted. Activists say the vessels are often converted cargo ships that do not meet the high standards of animal welfare, and that heat stress, overcrowding and the spread of disease are regular features of the journeys.

The rescue effort on Thursday was unfolding as Typhoon Maysak lashed parts of South Korea with heavy rain and gusts of up to 78 miles per hour, flooding some homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of others without power. The storm, which was barreling through southern Japan toward North Korea on Thursday, was expected to weaken into a tropical storm later in the day.

The livestock ship, which left Napier, New Zealand, on Aug. 14 with a cargo of 5,867 cattle, was expected to arrive in the Chinese port city of Tangshan about 17 days later, New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The 456-foot ship, Gulf Livestock 1, is registered in Panama and was built as a livestock carrier in 2002, according to VesselFinder.com, a boat-tracking website. A photo on the site shows cattle berths stacked high on its deck, as rooms might be on a luxury cruise liner. The ship’s registered owner is Rahmeh Compania Naviera SA, a company based in Amman, Jordan, Reuters reported.

The livestock carrier is not the first to encounter trouble at sea.

In November, a cargo ship overturned in the Black Sea near Romania while on its way to Saudi Arabia. The ship’s 21 crew members were rescued, but most of the nearly 15,000 sheep trapped on board were not.

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