Debris on distant Japanese islands sparks hope in search for missing livestock crew

A crowdfunding page Save the Forty of Gulf Livestock 1 has raised more than A$117,000 ($84,000) to be put towards private searches of Japanese islands in the hunt for the missing 40 crew from the sunken Panama-flagged livestock carrier. The team behind the search are anxious to raise more funds quickly as their initial fly-overs have yielded encouraging results.

The money has been spent so far on putting search helicopters and planes in the sky along with funding satellite imagery support with friends and families of the missing crew adamant they will find survivors 35 days on from the sinking of the Gulf Navigation ship, which lost power and capsized in a typhoon while en route to China. Just three men were found in the immediate aftermath of the accident, one of whom died.

After two weeks of searching, images from crew and pilots have brought back promising results.

This is not a search for closure, in our minds, this still remains an active search to rescue the missing crew

First, what appears to be a canopy from a Viking life raft (pictured), the same used on the Gulf Livestock 1, which was spotted by a helicopter on the southwest Japanese island of Kuchinoshima, approximately 260 km from the last known location of the Gulf Livestock 1.

On the same day, a life ring and a single blue boot was spotted 35 km away on the island of Gajajima.

Other sightings of dead cows and other ship debris have been spotted and photographed in a similar area. More than 5,800 cattle are thought to have perished with the sinking of the vessel, a converted boxship.

“All of these findings run in line with drift particle maps put together by marine experts soon after the capsizing of the ship,” the organisers of the crowdfunding page state in an update today.

Any further donations will be going directly to search and rescue aircraft to search the remaining Tokara Island group and the islands south of Amami. Further funds would kickstart the search in the Izu Island group, south of Tokyo.

“This is not a search for closure, in our minds, this still remains an active search to rescue the missing crew. We cannot forget there are still four life rafts and one lifeboat from the ship still unaccounted for and we’re appealing for anyone who has the means to donate and join the search with us,” Harry Morrison, the organiser of the crowdfundraiser and a close friend of one of the missing Australians, stated today.

The team has also created a map showing what the Japan Coast Guard and later searches have come across so far.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. There are precedents of survivors found in that area after 30 days on a raft, rescued by japanese fishermen alive. Keep searching!

  2. I find the fact that people need to crowdfund for a private search and rescue effort little more than disgusting.

    Wouldn’t happen if this was an aeroplane?
    Wouldn’t happen if it was a cruise ship?
    Probably wouldn’t happen if there was an American on board i guess??

    All from an industry which (apparently) prides itself in putting lives and safety first?
    where are the owners? why don’t insurance policies cover search and rescue efforts? surely there shoudl be a set of minimum standard that can be applied to prevent the need for a crowdfunded search and rescue effort in future?

    1. Maybe any crowdfunded contributions would be better spent in a campaign to help campaign for a ban on all live animal transport by sea.
      There is no need to transport live animals in large numbers on such vessels and, time after time, it has been proven that these shipments are carried out on unsafe vessels and in terrible conditions for the creatures themselves (as reported on Splash24 many times).
      Already New Zealand has announced a ban on sea shipment of cattle but this needs to be extended worldwide.

  3. Hi Martyn,
    This is not the forum for this comment. The funding is focused on promoting a much needed response for the search and rescue of our Friends and Family, 40 Men missing at Sea and hopefully soon to be rescued and returned to their loved ones. Empathy would be appreciated from you.
    My Brother In Law, William Mainprize, one of the lost Men, is an animal lover, an adventurist, someone who embraces life in its entirety and in all forms. He is also one of my Best Mates. He refers to the Cattle as ‘His Ladies’ and does everything he can to ensure the well being of all on board.
    Lucas, another missing Australian on board the vessel was staffed as the Vet. Someone to care for the cattle and ensure their safety and wellness. Another animal lover, a Father, a loved member of society. Not one to be chastised by yourself.
    Mindless and insensitive trolling on your behalf is unwanted here.

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