Sea Harvest fishing trawler had ‘excellent’ record: Families of lost fishermen pray for miracle

The South Africa flagged fishing trawler, MFV Lepanto. Photo: Samsa

The South Africa flagged fishing trawler, MFV Lepanto. Photo: Samsa

Published May 21, 2024


Cape Town - The Sea Harvest fishing trawler that sunk with 20 crew on board had been serviced before it rapidly took water and sunk offshore from Hout Bay.

The families of two fishermen still missing at sea remained hopeful yesterday for their loved ones’ return, after the search for 11 fishermen was called off on Sunday.

Sea Harvest spokesperson Anthea Abraham said the vessel went for mandatory service.

“She had an excellent safety track record with zero reportable safety incidents in the last five years,” said Abraham.

Faadiel Groenewald, 27, and Wilfred Swiers, from Pella near Atlantis, are among those presumed drowned after the trawler, FV Lepanto, sunk at around 35 nautical miles offshore.

Nine of the seamen launched an emergency raft and were picked up by passing vessels that responded to the Mayday distress call.

Groenewald’s family yesterday said that the Pella community, a small fishing town, had been supporting them.

Groenewald left his 1-month old daughter with his girlfriend behind to go work on the trawler.

“He went to work on Tuesday but when he came home he said that there was something wrong with the vessel and it had to be taken in for maintenance.

“He went back to work on Friday and was supposed to leave for seven days.

“On Friday afternoon, before 5pm, people came to tell us that something happened to the boat. They said they were missing,” the girlfriend said.

“Ever since the news broke, the community members have stood by us. We have been praying for his return. I know he is still alive, he will come back to us.”

The Swiers family said they were devastated but hopeful.

“The God we pray to is full of miracles and all we have is hope,” a relative said.

After hearing about the incident, a concerned mother, Portia Gabriels, said she wanted her 24-year-old son, who is at sea, to return home.

“The ship that sank was fixed and the workers were at home for a week.

“It was repaired again the day before they went to sea.

“I’m a mom of a fisherman and I am now scared that he is out there.”

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said the search for the missing crew started on Friday afternoon after a distress call reported that the trawler had taken water rapidly and was sinking fast.

“Unfortunately, no sighting of any of the 11 missing persons or even a life jacket was reported.

“Those vessels remaining in the search area continued with their assigned search patterns until after sunset.

“A review of the search progression, the search efforts, and the continuous lack of sighting reports from the incident start, and the favourable weather, led the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to conclude the search and rescue effort,” Samsa said.

South African Deep-Sea Trawling Industry Association chairperson Innocent Dwayi extended the association’s condolences to the families affected.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and colleagues of those who lost their lives in this devastating incident.

“We express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with Sea Harvest, a valued member of Sadstia during this difficult time.

“The loss of lives and the impact on the fishing community are deeply felt, and we stand by Sea Harvest and their affected employees and families in their time of grief.

“We are grateful for the courageous efforts of the nine surviving fishermen who launched an emergency raft and demonstrated remarkable bravery in the face of extreme danger.

“We urge our members to provide unwavering support and assistance to the families of the victims and the survivors.

“It is essential that we come together as a community to offer comfort, practical aid and any other resources that may be required during this tragic period.

“We remain committed to supporting our members and the wider fishing industry through this challenging time.”

Premier Alan Winde and Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis visited the families of the 11 fishermen on Monday.

“Ten of the missing men are from Cape Town, with one from Malmesbury. We honour and remember these fishermen. We are praying for their families,” Hill-Lewis said.

Sea Harvest CEO Felix Ratheb said they were working closely with Samsa to establish the cause of the accident as soon as possible.

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Cape Argus