Three dead, three missing as fishing boat sinks

02:35, Aug 18 2010
A supplied photo of the Oyang 70 which has sunk in the Southern Ocean 400 nautical miles from Dunedin.
BOAT DOWN: A supplied photo of the Oyang 70 which has sunk in the Southern Ocean 400 nautical miles from Dunedin.

Three men are dead and grave fears are now held for three still missing after a Korean fishing boat sank off the coast of New Zealand this morning.

The missing men include the ship's Korean master.

The bodies of three Indonesian crew were recovered from the Southern Ocean and 45 survivors were rescued from life rafts after the New Zealand chartered Korean-registered Oyang 70 sank approximately 400 nautical miles east of Dunedin about 4.40am today.

The New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre's Mike Roberts said there were now grave concerns for the three men, given the number of hours that had elapsed since the sinking.

A Royal New Zealand Airforce P3 Orion had completely covered a search area determined by RCCNZ and found no trace of the vessel's sixth and final life raft.

The men would have likely been in the water since the early hours of the morning and "the chances of surviving that length of time in water temperatures of around 7 degrees are slim".

"However, we are continuing to search the area, to ensure we have not missed anything or anyone."

RCCNZ would review the search later this afternoon.

The rescued crew - a mix of Koreans, Indonesians and Filipinos - are now aboard a Talley's-registered boat, Amaltal Atlantis.

The three bodies, all Indonesian nationals, are also onboard the Amaltal Atlantis.

A spokesperson for the Embassy for the Republic of Indonesia said the three dead men were aged 38, 35 and 25.

Attempts were being made to notify next of kin.

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Amaltal Atlantis skipper Greg Lyall had reported that the survivors were ''all pretty good'' with a few cases of mild hypothermia.

''We're just looking after them as well as we can and once we're released from the search we will be bringing them back to probably Christchurch.''

The journey would take 35 to 40 hours.

Representatives of the Korean and Indonesian consulates have visited RCCNZ and been briefed on the situation.

EMERGENCY BEACON SIGNAL

The Rescue Coordination Centre ordered the search after receiving an alert from the vessel's emergency position-indicating radio beacon at 4.40am.

The alert was followed shortly after by a mayday call from the same position.

The mayday call was relayed by the Amaltal Atlantis, which reported that the Oyang 70 had sunk.

The Amaltal Atlantis was the first of the six boats in the area to reach the scene after hearing the mayday call at 4.28am.

Chief executive Tony Hazlett said the 82 metre Oyang 70 ''obviously sank very quickly'' and the Atlantis had to relay the mayday to the rescue coordination centre. 

He did not know how long the fishermen were in the lifeboats but said that at this time of year in the southern blue whiting fishery the boats worked fairly close together.

Mr Hazlett said the 45 extras would mean a squeeze on the Atlantis, which carries a crew of 39 New Zealanders. The boat left Nelson at the end of last week and had ''only just got there''.

''There's plenty of food on board.  We obviously don't have enough bunks for all those people but we'll be looking after them as best we can.''

He said Amaltal crews did rescue drills every trip.

''We hope we never have to use them.  In this case we did.  Our crew has done a very good job in getting those 45 people on board and I hope like hell we find the others.''

He had ''personal speculation'' on what caused the sinking in a calm sea ''but I'm not prepared to put that out'', Mr Hazlett said.

Rescue centre spokesman Ross Henderson said there weren't any details about why the boat sank.

"The focus is purely on the rescue side of things," Henderson said. "Our hope would be that they [the missing crew] are in a liferaft, given the temperature of the water and how cold the conditions are."

Oyang 70 and Oyang 79 took part in the search for missing crew in 2006 when the fishing trawler Kotuku overturned near Stewart Island, claiming six lives.

Oyang 70 is owned by Sajo Oyang Corporation, a company incorporated in Korea, and is registered on the Korean Shipping Registry and flies the Korean flag.

Oyang 70 has operated in New Zealand waters since the 1980s. It is one of the oldest fishing boats operating in New Zealand and the 38-year-old Lyttelton-based vessel is 1379 tons DWT.

Sajo Oyang Corporation was convicted of spilling oil in Nelson harbour last year.

It is chartered by Southern Storm (2007) Ltd who have offices in Burnside, Christchurch.

Its director, Hyun Gwan Choi, holds 550 of the 1000 shares and Oyang Corporation of Seoul hold the rest.

He told The Press today: "we don't know anything at the moment we are awaiting more information''.

- with MICHAEL FIELD, BILL MOORE, Nelson Mail, and NZPA