Possible typhoon ship life raft sighting off Japan’s coast
A POSSIBLE liferaft sighting has been reported to the Japan Coast Guard's 10th regional headquarters in Kagoshima, near where live export ship Gulf Livestock I sank last month.
The ship was carrying 43 men and almost 6000 cattle when it capsized and sank in the East China Sea during typhoon Maysak.
Tasmanian cinematographer, Simon Wearne, said an orange dot was spotted on a satellite image 130km from the headquarters of the coast guard branch in charge of the Japanese search and rescue effort.
Mr Wearne has lived in Japan for the past decade and has been heavily involved in co-ordinating the public search and rescue effort since the Japan Coast Guard scaled back its search and rescue response to its "usual patrol arrangement" on September 9.
He informed the Coast Guard of the sighting and its coordinates just after 10am on Tuesday morning and said the discovery provided the best chance of finding survivors to date.
"It's possible [the Coast Guard] could get onto it today if they can ascertain that this satellite image is correct," he said.
"The satellite picked up the orange dot on [October 10], but it's in an area where the [drift] model is not moving very much, so it will just be drifting quite slowly - possibly within 30km or 40km of where it was [captured] by the satellite."
Mr Wearne said the dot was spotted by family and friends of missing New Zealand crew member Lochie Bellerby.
"They are not 100 per cent sure yet, but it's the most likely thing they've seen.
"It's within checking distance anyway. We need to get there and check it out today.
"With any luck they'll pop an aircraft out there or go out there with a vessel and sea if they can find anything."
Three Filipino men were pulled from the water by the Japanese Coast Guard in the days following the ship's distress beacon on September 2, but one died.
New South Wales stockman Will Mainprize and Queensland vet Lukas Orda are among the 36 Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians still lost at sea.
The two surviving Filipino men have confirmed they witnessed the deployment of four life rafts before the ship sank and every crew member was wearing a PFD.
The Viking life rafts on board the ship each carry 20 people with enough rations to last 30 days.
Although 41 days have now passed since the sinking, a report prepared by maritime law consultant Jodie Harvey from New Zealand found there was hope for survival while the life jackets and rafts remained missing.
Tasmanian man, close friend and former colleague and housemate of Mr Mainprize, Harry Morrison, said even if a crew member drowned with a life jacket on, they would float.
"So until they find those life jackets or those four life rafts, we can't stop searching," he said.
Footage and images of debris including the canopy of a life raft, life rings, life jackets, a boot, animal medication and cow carcasses washed up on islands in the Tokara group nearest to where the ship sank were captured in recent days during reconnaissance flights.
About $144,000 of donated funds has been spent on the flights.
Loved ones of the missing men have called for urgent donations and government support to complete phases three and four of the search effort.
Originally published as Possible typhoon ship life raft sighting off Japan's coast