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A general view of fisherman catching pike in Cape Town. Eleven crew members are missing after a Harvest commercial fishing trawler sank 30 nautical miles off the coast of Cape Town. File photo: JACO MARAIS/GALLO IMAGES
A general view of fisherman catching pike in Cape Town. Eleven crew members are missing after a Harvest commercial fishing trawler sank 30 nautical miles off the coast of Cape Town. File photo: JACO MARAIS/GALLO IMAGES

Rescue teams continued the search on Sunday for 11 crew members who went missing after a Sea Harvest commercial trawler sank 30 nautical miles off Cape Town. 

The National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI’s) Hout Bay and Table Bay duty crews were among rescuers deployed after it was reported that the trawler, FV Lepanto, had sunk off the Atlantic seaboard coast at about 3.30pm on Friday.

“A mayday distress call, intercepted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services at 3.30pm, was relayed to vessels in the area that responded to assist,” the NSRI reported. 

At least five fishing boats reached the search area after the alert and nine of 20 fishermen were rescued from a life raft. None was injured and they were taken to Table Bay port and were in the care of Sea Harvest, the fishing company for which they worked.

More rescue craft were dispatched to the area and were joined the SA Police Service (SAPS) police sea borderline control, the water policing and diving services unit, the Western Cape EMS metro control and rescue squad, disaster risk management, Cape Town fire and rescue services and City of Cape Town’s law enforcement marine unit. 

The Transnet National Ports Authority, Table Bay port control and NSRI duty controllers aided in the logistics and co-ordination of the search-and-rescue operation. The NSRI said rescuers were battling three to four-metre swells and 10-15 knot winds. 

On Sunday it had not been established why the trawler sank, but both life rafts from the vessel had been recovered. A helicopter and fixed wing aircraft joined the search.

Sea Harvest’s corporate affairs manager Anthea Abraham said on Sunday that 11 crew members were still missing. This was confirmed by NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon, who said an all-ships alert continued to be broadcast informing all vessels in the area to keep a sharp lookout. 

Sea Harvest said in a statement the rescued men were supported with a physical evaluation by a medical doctor and provided with trauma counselling before being reunited with their families.

“We are in constant contact with the families of the affected employees and have offered counselling for the family members during this terrible time,” the company said.

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