Okinawa-based fishing boat capsizes, seven crew missing

A Naha Fisheries Association long-line tuna fishing boat was found capsized off Palau with all of its seven crew members missing.

The 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters announced Tuesday that the “Daiichi Gyotoku-maru” 19.99-ton longline tuna fishing boat registered with Naha Fisheries Association was found turned upside down about 410 kilometers west-southwest of Palau. The boat had a crew of seven, and all are missing. Japan Coast Guard, nearby fishing boats, and U.S. Air Force aircraft are searching for the missing crew.

According to the Coast Guard, missing are Masahiki Tamaki, the 62-year-old captain of the boat, and 49-year-old Hidekazu Minei, the chief engineer. The rest five of the crew are from Indonesia. They have not been found as of midnight Wednesday.

The Japan Coast Guard received a report Monday afternoon that Gyotoku-maru had sent a SOS call and given its location at 370 kilometers southwest from Palau. A boat searching for Gyotoku-maru found it overturned on Tuesday morning.

Reportedly, the vessel was almost sunk, and the crew missing. A Japan Coast Guard aircraft confirmed an oil spill spreading in a shape of a fan on the ocean six kilometers east from Gyotoku-maru. A life raft was missing from Gyotoku-maru, and a coast guard spokesman said it’s a possibility that the crew is drifting on the life raft.

According to Naha Fisheries Association, Gyotoku-maru left Tomari Port in Naha on Nov. 1st, and started fishing operations off Palau on Nov. 7th.