Captain abandoned ship after wave hit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 April, 2012, 12:00am


Sailors on a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship that sank off southern Japan escaped after a powerful wave tilted the vessel up to 30 degrees, the shipowner said yesterday.

The 17-strong crew abandoned ship after the 4,100 tonne mainland China-bound freighter, New Lucky VII, lost control off Okinawa on Tuesday, Taiwanese shipping firm Franbo Lines said.

The strong wave also dislodged the timber that the ship was transporting from Cape Orford, Papua New Guinea, to Jiangsu .

'The ship sank within an hour. [The sailors] had just 30 minutes to escape,' Franbo spokesman John Tsai said, citing the ship's captain.

The first account of what happened before the vessel disappeared from marine monitoring emerged as six of the sailors, all Indonesians, remained missing last night. The Marine Department yesterday revised the number of rescued crew members from 12 to 11, including all three Chinese workers - two from the mainland and one from Taiwan.

The last contact between the New Lucky VII and Franbo Lines was at about 8am on Tuesday, when the Indonesian captain, Djoni Dolvi Pinontoan, reported that all was well. But when the next scheduled report never arrived, the firm raised the alarm. The Japanese coastguard pulled the survivors from international waters 23 nautical miles off Torishima island two days after the ship capsized.

Pinontoan, who received medical treatment yesterday on the nearby island of Amami Oshima, recounted their ordeal to Franbo Lines hours after the rescue.

'The ship slanted 20 to 30 degrees after it was struck by a wave that also displaced the cargo. The wave was very strong,' Tsai said.

It was a narrow escape, according to the captain. 'They could not see clearly [what happened to the rest of the crew],' Tsai said.

He said all the crew members were covered by insurance and payout amounts would vary.

The Marine Department said the search continued yesterday for the six missing crew members.