• Missing ship carrying 5800 cows and two Kiwis believed to have sank during typhoon
• One person has been rescued after jumping to safety
• The ship left Napier last month bound for China
• MPI has temporarily suspended cattle livestock export applications.
Rescuers are searching for a livestock ship with more than 40 crew members, including two New Zealanders, that a survivor said sank during rough weather off a southern Japanese island.
The ship was sailing from Napier to China.
Japan's coast guard was on Thursday afternoon (NZ time) searching for Livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 carrying 43 crew members and 5800 cows that made a distress call off a southern Japanese island in seas roughened by a typhoon.
Japan's coastguard said it rescued one crew member, Sareno Edvarodo, a 45-year-old chief officer from the Philippines, while searching for the ship.
According to Edvarodo, the vessel lost an engine before it was hit by a wave and sank during rough weather, a coastguard spokeswoman said.
When the ship capsized, crew were instructed to put on lifejackets. Edvarodo said he jumped into the water and did not see any other crew before he was rescued.
Pictures provided by the coastguard showed a person in a lifejacket being hauled from choppy seas in darkness.
The ship sent a distress signal at 4.45am NZT yesterday in the East China Sea, an area being affected by Typhoon Maysak.
NHK World Japan reported that the Panamanian registered cargo ship issued the distress signal at 1.40am Wednesday Japan time from a ship about 185km west of Amami Oshima in southwest Japan.
The ship departed Napier on August 14 carrying 5867 cows and reportedly 43 crew members including two people from New Zealand, 39 from the Philippines, one from Australia and one from Singapore.
The ship was on route to the Port of Jingtang in Tangshan, China, with an estimated journey of approximately 17 days.
It was expected to arrive in China on September 3.
NHK World reported that shortly before 7pm Wednesday Japan time Japan's Defense Ministry said crew on a patrol plane spotted a lifeboat-like object in the waters near where the signal was sent and a person in a lifejacket nearby.
New Zealand's Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said he was informed of the distress call and search last night.
"I very much hope all the crew on board are safe. My thoughts are with their families, this will be a very difficult time for them as the search continues.
"Officials from MPI are working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the exporter. I am awaiting an update on the situation."
Because it was an overseas incident, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was the lead agency, a spokesperson said.
Safe Campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said it highlighted the risk of exporting live cattle. The cows are "likely all pregnant", she said.
However, the MPI spokeswoman confirmed that none of the livestock on board was pregnant.
"No MPI staff were on board the Gulf Livestock 1," she added.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said they were providing "consular assistance" to the families of two New Zealanders aboard.