Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the situation involving a missing cattle ship in the East China Sea is incredibly serious.
The Gulf Livestock 1 was confirmed missing on Thursday morning. It had 43 crew, two of whom were New Zealanders, and nearly 6000 cattle on board.
Mr Peters told Morning Report he couldn't reveal much more about the incident but was talking to the families of the Kiwi crew.
"This is just a serious disaster, so many lives at stake. We hope for something better but it's not a good situation at all."
He still defended the practice of live exports though, which has drawn the ire of animal rights groups and the Green Party in the wake of the ship going missing.
"If it was not for livestock exports this country would have no farming industry at all," he said.
"The question is that we do it in a way that's safe and that it's humane in respect to animals and the people who do it."