Search for 11 missing Cape Town fishermen called off

20 May 2024 | SANews

Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, says she is saddened by the news that the search for 11 missing fishermen has been called off. 

“I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the families of the 11 crew members who are now presumed deceased.

“I understand that the families of the bereaved fishermen have been informed that the search has been called off and that they are receiving professional counselling and support, and appropriate counselling will be given to the other fishermen who survived this incident,” said Creecy.

The MFV Lepanto, a vessel within Sea Harvest’s Viking Fishing Division, sank, causing the fishermen to go missing.

The vessel sank around 35 nautical miles offshore from Hout Bay on Friday afternoon, 17 May 2024.

Nine fishermen have been rescued, while 11 others are still missing at sea, according to officials.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Cape Town, working together with other stakeholders, led the search and rescue (SAR).

“A review of the search progression, the search efforts, and the continuous lack of sighting reports from the incident start, and the unfavourable weather, led the MRCC to conclude the SAR effort,” Creecy explained.

The Minister has since welcomed the appointment of the casualty investigation team by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The investigation will determine the cause of the sinking and ensure that all safety protocols were followed,” she said.

Sea Harvest reported that nine out of the 20 crew members, who were on board the vessel, were rescued and arrived safely on Friday night in Cape Town aboard the MFV Armana, another vessel from the group that was in the area at the time of the distress call.

The men were reunited with their families after a physical evaluation by a medical doctor and were provided with immediate trauma counselling.

Sea Harvest CEO, Felix Ratheb, said ensuring the safety of their staff at sea is a top priority and that the company is devastated by this tragedy.

“We have been in ongoing contact with the families, with a senior team and a counsellor visiting each family of the missing men today. We will continue to support them, as well as the rescued men and their families. We are also providing updates and counselling for our broader employee base, as this has been extremely upsetting and sad for all of us,” Ratheb said.

According to the CEO, the company is working closely with the relevant authorities, primarily SAMSA, to establish the cause of the accident as soon as possible.

“We wish to thank our employees and the rescue organisations for their active search and rescue operations since Friday,” he said in a statement.

Creecy has since asked fellow South Africans to keep the bereaved families in their thoughts and prayers.

Premier Alan Winde, today, 20 May 2024, accompanied by Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, visited the head offices of Sea Harvest in Cape Town to offer their heartfelt condolences and support to the families and colleagues.

Premier Winde expressed his shock and sadness, telling the relatives of the victims, “You are all in my thoughts in this very difficult time. I feel your pain.”

He also met with the 9 men who survived the ordeal.

“I know this may be bittersweet for you as you too lost colleagues and friends, but I share in the joy you and your families are feeling that you are with us today. I urge you to please seek counselling and support. This has been a devastating tragedy and there is help available to you.”

The Premier offered additional psychological counselling support to the fishermen and the families of the deceased. Sea Harvest has made trauma counsellors available. The company’s management assured the Premier that its investigation into the incident would be exhaustive.

Premier Winde expressed his gratitude to all role players who were involved in the rescue and search operation.


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