Indonesian authorities have saved 18 seafarers after their general cargo ship sank on Saturday.

The Antara news agency cited police as saying the 1,400-dwt Permata Asia (built 1992) developed a leak in its engine room north of Sangiang Island in West Nusa Tenggara.

The vessel was carrying a cement cargo.

Local police chief Henry Novika Chandra issued a statement on Sunday saying the source of the water ingress had been repaired “several times.”

“But because it could no longer be helped, the captain of the ship asked for help by sending an SOS signal,” he added.

A swift response came from the navy and police forces and all the crew members were safely evacuated to the port of Sape.

Chandra added: "It's true that the ship sank and all of the crew were safe."

The vessel was crossing the Flores Sea at the time.

The master changed its course into the Sangiang Sea, but the engine died.

Chandra explained the seafarers had tried to pump the water out manually.

“However, the officers could not overcome the water discharge that had leaked in the engine room. The ship’s engine turned off by itself, the ship began to sink,” he added.

The vessel is listed as operated by Sinar Era Asia of Indonesia.

The Permata Asia has just one port state control inspection on its record, dating from 2007.

The cargo ship was not detained at that time.

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