Viking Fishing financial director, Rory Williams says he is afraid the three employees lost at sea might have lost their lives.
“It is presumed the crewmen would have succumbed to their environment and are presumed drowned,” he said.
The 21-man crew had to abandon the MFV Lincoln trawler after it took on water and apparently keeled over in rough sea conditions, 35 nautical miles south east of Cape Point on Sunday night.
Nearby vessels rescued nine men. Two bodies were recovered, but then lost to the ocean when they fell out their life jackets into the sea.
The search was called off at 6pm on Tuesday.
Three hours earlier, the ill-fated vessel had arrived at the company’s quayside premises in the Cape Town harbour after being towed back by a sister ship.
“The vessel was examined within port limits by the South African Maritime Safety Authority to ascertain the extent of the damage prior to entering the harbour,” Williams said.
The trawler will remain under the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) care while it conducts investigations into the circumstances of the accident.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) on Tuesday called for a thorough investigation into the incident.