Ship carrying two NZ crew members and live export missing in East China Sea

A ship reportedly carrying two NZ crew members and 5800 cows has gone missing in the East China Sea.

Japan's press agency is reporting that the cargo ship carrying dozens of crew members, including two from New Zealand, has issued a distress signal in the middle of a typhoon.

The agency, NHK says, a Panamanian-registered cargo ship issued a distress signal in waters to the west of Amami Oshima Island in southwestern Japan.

The Japan Coast Guard says the distress signal from the "Gulf Livestock 1" which is believed to be carrying 43 crew members - 39 from the Philippines, two from New Zealand, and one each from Australia and Singapore.

The vessel was reportedly transporting cattle from Napier in New Zealand to a port in Tangshan, China.

The Coast Guard has sent out patrol ships to search the area, which is affected by Typhoon Maysak.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has been made aware of the missing ship.

A spokesperson for the minister's office says as this is an overseas incident, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is the lead department.