Police will meet the ship in Napier after a member of the crew is believed to have fallen overboard

The sailor disappeared from the Berge Rishiri, an Isle of Man-flagged bulk carrier en route to Napier.


The sailor disappeared from the Berge Rishiri, an Isle of Man-flagged bulk carrier en route to Napier.

Police will greet a ship in Napier on Monday night after a crew member believed to have fallen overboard while off the east coast of the South Island.

A search over the weekend, coordinated by Maritime New Zealand’s rescue coordination centre, failed to find the Chinese national, with the search now on hold.

The sailor was believed to have fallen overboard from the bulk carrier Berge Rishiri off the coast of Otago.

A police spokesman said they were working with the Rescue Coordination Center as the ship was due to dock in Napier on Monday evening.

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“The police will speak to the crew on board to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

On Monday, Maritime New Zealand said the search had been suspended. But ships in the area were still being asked to check if the missing crew member had been sighted.

A Maritime New Zealand spokesperson said the incident took place on a foreign-flagged vessel outside New Zealand waters, so it was outside Maritime New Zealand’s jurisdiction to investigate issues such as breaches of maritime security.

The New Zealand Territorial Sea is the belt of sea adjacent to the coast for a distance of 12 nautical miles.

The Maritimes spokesman did not immediately say who had the responsibility to investigate.

Berge Rishiri is a 180m bulk carrier registered and sailing under the flag of the Isle of Man.

“Our thoughts are with the crew and those affected by the incident on board the vessel off the east coast of the South Island this weekend,” Maritime NZ said.

Bluff’s South Port general manager Nigel Gear said the Berge Rishiri unloaded alumina at Tiwai Quay, near Bluff, before leaving at 1am on Saturday morning, bound for Napier.

Hours later, alerts went off when the crew member failed to arrive for a shift on the boat.

Gear said the crew member’s disappearance was a tragedy and his condolences go out to the man’s family and crewmates.

A spokesperson for Berge Bulk, owner of the Berge Rishiri, said the sailor was last seen on the boat at 8 a.m. on Saturday and preliminary reports indicated he had not shown up for his routine shift duty at 4 p.m. the same day.

Captain de Berge Rishiri immediately raised the alarm and activated a thorough search of the vessel, the spokesperson said.

“With no sign of the missing sailor, the case has become one of a suspected man overboard.”

The master turned the vessel back on a reciprocal course with additional lookouts posted.

All regional maritime authorities and the flag state were notified and search and rescue operations were carried out, but to no avail.

“We are contacting the family of the missing sailor to provide them with the necessary assistance during this difficult period. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone involved in search and rescue operations, including Maritime New Zealand and Rescue Co-ordination Center New Zealand.

On Sunday, an RCCNZ spokesperson said a cold water survivability expert had advised there was little chance the man had survived.

Maritime Union New Zealand expressed concern over the weekend, saying it wanted to know how long the sailor had been at sea and on duty, and wanted to make sure he was not kept on the ship any longer than its contractual period. “We have seen tremendous mental health issues with sailors held captive on ships for months and sometimes years.”

The union asked Maritime NZ to investigate whether the crew had adequate breaks, but Maritime New Zealand did not respond to questions about whether it was looking into the matter.

A Worksafe NZ spokesperson said the man’s disappearance was a maritime issue and had therefore been investigated by Maritime NZ.

“This is outside the jurisdiction of WorkSafe NZ.”