‘As a company, we are devastated by this tragedy.’ Sea Harvest CEO following boat capsize where 11 fisherman are presumed drowned

A Sea Harvest vessel. Picture: Supplied

A Sea Harvest vessel. Picture: Supplied

Published May 20, 2024


The search for the 11 fisherman who was on board the MFV Lepanto that capsized on Friday in the Western Cape has been called off.

In a statement Sea Harvest said that MFV Lepanto, one of the vessels within the group’s Viking Fishing Division, sank around 35 nautical miles offshore from Hout Bay.

“Authorities confirmed to the company that the search and rescue operation for 11 missing crewmen of the sunken MFV Lepanto has been called off in view of the significant time elapsed since the accident,” said Anthea Abraham Sea Harvest’s group corporate affairs manager.

“Tragically, the missing crewmen are now presumed drowned.”

She said a rescue operation was launched immediately after the distress call was received on Friday.

“An extensive search and rescue operation was conducted with several vessels since Friday by the South African Search and Rescue (SASAR), supported by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI),” Abraham said.

“Nine of the 20-man crew who were on-board the vessel were rescued and arrived safely on Friday night in Cape Town aboard the MFV Armana, another of the group’s vessels that was in the area at the time of the distress call,” she said.

“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: “Keeping our staff safe at sea is our key priority. As a company, we are 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,” Ratheb said.

“We will continue to support them, as well as the rescued men and their families.”

Ratheb said the company had also been providing updates and counselling for our broader employee base.

“As this has been extremely upsetting and sad for all of us. We are working closely with the relevant authorities, primarily the South African Maritime Safety Authority,to establish the cause of the accident as soon as possible,” Ratheb said.

Ratheb thanked all those involved in rescue efforts.

An update will be provided later today.

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