THE family of a Southland man missing in the East China Sea are disappointed the New Zealand Government has turned its focus to recovering the boat’s voyage data recorder, not on saving their son’s life.
Lochie Bellerby went missing in the East China Sea after Gulf Livestock 1, the boat he and fellow New Zealander Scott Harris were working on, sank during a typhoon.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand was exploring the viability of working with partners to conduct a search for the voyage data recorder (black box).
“We know how much it would mean to the families of those on the ship to understand more about what happened to cause this tragic loss of life,” Mr Peters said.
He made no mention of the search and rescue efforts to find the men.
Family spokeswoman Sue Sherburd said Mr Peters had stopped short of saying publicly what support was going into the search and rescue of the two New Zealanders who were missing.
“Mfat have confirmed that they are talking to the Tokyo Embassy and seeing what can be done, so it’s just a bit confusing about Winston Peters’ comments in the media,” she said.
“It is disappointing to hear that the New Zealand Government’s focus appears to have narrowed to putting its resources into the black box recovery and not on saving the lives of New Zealand citizens.”
A Maritime New Zealand spokesman said, as far as New Zealand authorities were aware, Japanese authorities were not involved “in any way” in searching for the voyage data recorder.
“The SAR response remains the responsibility of the Japanese Coastguard, who remain focused on the SAR aspects.”
Japanese search activity had been scaled down given the “very comprehensive and extensive searching” already undertaken, and the length of time since the vessel was lost.
However, routine patrol and surveillance activity in the area was continuing, he said.
Ms Sherburd said the Bellerby family had sought the help of a maritime specialist, who had 48 years’ experience.
His research pinpointed an area past the Japanese Island of Tanega Shima in a northeasterly direction along the Japanese southeast coast where he thought the missing men might be.
The family had provided Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Maritime New Zealand, NZTA and the Prime Minister’s office the detailed information in the hope it would be passed on to Japanese authorities.