"Following the conclusion of morning and afternoon searches by our aircraft and commercial vessels we suspended the active search," Chief Petty Officer Dennis Vetrano of the Coast Guard's Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu said in a statement. "We extend our condolences to the families and loved ones of the crew members affected by this tragedy."
The Coast Guard said an HC-130 Hercules air crew and two merchant ships searched throughout the day Wednesday, wrapping three days of searches involving U.S. Navy aircrews and five merchant vessels covering 5,544 nautical square miles (7,342 miles). It issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast Notice to Mariners requesting that vessels operating in the remote area keep a lookout for the missing crew member.
"We have no information on the condition of the vehicles at this time," a Nissan spokesperson told AN. "Our thoughts are with the crew members as well as the safety of the rescue teams."
The ship master reported a fire on New Year's Eve 1,800 nautical miles (2,070 miles) northwest of Hawaii, with the intention to abandon ship. Nearby Good Samaritan merchant vessels rescued 16 of the 21 crew members, with four of the five remaining crew members found in the water but unresponsive and not able to respond to rescue equipment. There's no word on what caused the fire.
The 650-foot ship, which has capacity for 5,200 vehicles and was built in 2009, is owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha and chartered out to Mistui OSK Lines. That company's shipping log shows the vessel left Yokohama, Japan, on Dec. 26 bound for Honolulu, where it was due to make port Jan. 5. From there, it was set to sail to Mazatlan, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and then Port Canaveral, Fla. before making several other stops along the East Coast of the U.S. and then crossing the Atlantic for Africa.
The Coast Guard says Shoei Kisen Kaisha is coordinating with the merchant vessels to transport the surviving, rescued crew members, and it will attempt to recover the four unresponsive crew from the water when other contracted ships arrive on the scene in the coming days.
The vessel remains uncrewed and at last report was listing to starboard and was still on fire.
In 2006, the Cougar Ace cargo ship carrying 4,700 Mazdas tipped over 60 degrees to port after a ballast adjustment at sea, forcing some $100 million worth of new vehicles to eventually be scrapped.