A Southland man described as "a top bloke who wanted to see the world" was aboard the livestock ship now missing in the typhoon-hit waters southwest of Japan.

Lochie Bellerby, from Te Anau, has been named as one of the two New Zealanders on the Gulf Livestock 1, which has now been missing, presumed sunk, in stormy weather last Wednesday.

The 11,947-ton ship, its 43 crew and 5,800 cows left Napier in mid-August, heading to Tangshan on China's eastern coast.

It sent a distress signal at 4.45am (NZT) on Wednesday, reporting engine failure, but has not yet been located.

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Typhoon Maysak was blowing by southern Japan at the time of the incident. The ship's automated tracker showed it sailing in high winds of 58 knots (107km/h) at its last known position, according to the ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com.

Japanese rescue crews have so far found three survivors - two Filipinos and a third person who was unconscious when recovered by rescue crews, but later died.

Chief Officer Edvardo Sareno, who was rescued late on Wednesday, said the ship stalled when an engine stopped, then capsized after being hit broadside by a powerful wave, and sank.

Bellerby, in his late 20s, has been described by a former manager as an "adventurous" man and a hard worker.

A shepherd at Tangihau Station in 2013, a former manager remembers him as a "top bloke" and a hard worker.

"He was very adventurous, he wanted to see the world," he said.

It was a shock to hear Bellerby had been aboard the ill-fated boat, he said.

A Maritime NZ spokeswoman earlier said the Gulf Livestock 1 was checked before it left Napier and there was nothing to suggest the vessel was not in good condition when it left port.

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Rescuers on Friday found traces of fuel on the surface of the sea in the area, a sign of the ship's submersion.

Dozens of cow carcasses have also been spotted floating in the area.

The Japanese Coast Guardhas conducted a large air and sea search for the vessel or any crew members, involving three coast guard vessels, five planes and specially trained divers involved in the search-and-rescue mission.

But search efforts for the remaining crew members were halted at the weekend as Typhoon Haishen ripped through the area.

Japan's meteorological agency warned that the storm could be the third biggest to hit the country since records began almost 70 years ago.

Queensland vet Lukas Orda, who is married with a six-month-old son, has been named as one of the Australians on board the missing cargo ship.

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Orda studied at James Cook University and worked at the Gold Coast Equine Clinic before joining the cattle export ship as a veterinary officer in June.

The vet's last post was on June 24, writing, "And the first 20 day stretch of my trip starts ..."

It was accompanied by a map showing he was travelling to Yantai, China, from Port of Portland in Victoria.