The Maritime Union says the confirmed death of three Indonesian crew members missing after sinking of a fishing vessel Oyang 70 is a tragedy.
The Korean-owned Oyang 70 sank early this morning approximately 400 nautical miles off the Otago coast.
In addition to the three deaths, three crew members are still missing and 45 crew members were picked up by another fishing vessel the Amaltal Atlantis. Rescue operations are underway to find the missing men.
The Oyang 70 departed from Dunedin on the morning of 14 August.
Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the sinking is a maritime disaster and initial reports that the vessel had capsized in good weather conditions were extremely disturbing.
The Maritime Union would be working with the International Transport Workers Federation to provide any assistance it could to crew members, and also to find out why the sinking occurred.
At 38 years of age the Oyang 70 was one of the oldest fishing vessels in New Zealand waters.
The sinking comes just a few months after two overseas crew members died from asphyxiation aboard the bulk carrier TPC Wellington in the Port of Whangarei in May 2010.
Mr Fleetwood says the Union has encountered ongoing problems experienced by overseas crew on merchant and fishing vessels, including health and safety problems.
Oyang 70 is owned by Sajo Oyang Corporation, a company incorporated in Korea, and is registered on the Korean Shipping Registry and flies the Korean flag.
Oyang 70 has operated in New Zealand waters since the 1980s. It was convicted of spilling oil in Nelson harbour last year.
It is chartered by Southern Storm (2007) Ltd who have offices in Christchurch.