Planes and helicopters were sent out to the scene by authorities to rescue the crew. But, as of 5.30pm local time, just three of the 30 workers onboard had been brought to safety.
The Hong Kong Government Flying Service shared photos from the rescue mission, which appear to show a crew member being lifted onto a rescue helicopter as colossal waves pummelled the vessel which had broken into two parts.
The incident reportedly occurred about 300km (186 miles) south of Hong Kong.
The ship, which has not been named, got caught up in a severe tropical storm, which was blowing gusts of up to 10km/h (68mph). The vessel ran into difficulty when its crew members attempted to negotiate their way out of severe weather.
The storm hit land in the western part of the coastal province of Guangdong later on Saturday. The Hong Kong rescue service sent two fixed-wing aircraft and four helicopters for the rescue effort.
With additional reporting from the Associated Press