Japan probes fatal collision between Osumi warship and fishing boat

Fatal incident off Hiroshima is latest in a series of maritime accidents involving naval vessels

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 11:20pm

Japan's Ministry of Defence has opened an investigation after the Osumi, an 8,900-tonne tank-landing warship, collided with a fishing boat off Hiroshima, killing two of four men aboard the smaller vessel.

Kiyoshi Takamori, the 67-year-old captain of the fishing boat, died on Wednesday while Koji Otake, 66, was rescued but died of his injuries yesterday.

The collision occurred shortly after 8 am on Wednesday close to the naval facility at Kure, the home port of the Osumi.

The Inland Sea, the waterway which separates the main Japanese island of Honshu from Shokoku and Kyushu islands, was reportedly calm and visibility was excellent when the accident happened. Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera called a press conference a little over an hour after the accident, saying the tragedy was "very regrettable".

"Due to the nature of the accident, I gave an instruction to the crew of the Osumi to co-operate with the investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard," Onodera said. "It is vital for the JCG to carry out a formal and thorough investigation."

Onodera confirmed that he would head an accident investigation committee to look into the causes of the accident, but there will be concern at the number of similar incidents involving Japanese naval units.

In February 2008, the destroyer Atago collided with a fishing boat off the Boso Peninsula, east of Tokyo, killing the captain and his son.

Two members of the warship's crew were charged with professional negligence resulting in death, although the Tokyo High Court eventually found both men not guilty of causing the accident.

In its ruling in the case, the Yokohama Marine Accident Tribunal ordered the crews of warships to ensure the safe navigation of their vessels.

In a more infamous incident, the submarine Nadashio collided with a 150-tonne pleasure boat off of Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, in July 1988, killing 30 crew and passengers on board.

The captains of both vessels were found guilty of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

The coastguard plans to raise the fishing vessel and will question its passengers and the crew of the Osumi, which carried out relief and rescue work in the Philippines in November in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.