Determine cause of tragedy to clarify responsibility

The sightseeing boat that sank in an incident off the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido has been salvaged from the seabed. The cause of the incident must be determined and responsibility clarified.

The hull was found at a depth of 115 meters on the west side of the peninsula. A salvage company used wires to lift the vessel and unloaded it at Abashiri Port. An accident also occurred in the midst of the transportation process, when the vessel fell away from the wires, sinking to the seabed at a depth of 182 meters.

The 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters is examining the salvaged hull. Holes and cracks were found in the bottom of the vessel. Immediately before the vessel disappeared, there were contacts from the vessel that the bow was flooding and that the engine had stopped.

The key is to determine how the holes and cracks were formed. The engine and screws must be examined to determine the cause of the sinking.

Cell phones and cameras believed to belong to passengers were found inside the ship. By analyzing the image and video data, it may be possible to determine the time of the incident and the ship’s route.

It is important to seek the cooperation of experts in various fields to clarify as much as possible the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The coast guard is currently investigating the operator of the vessel on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death. The two key points in determining if the company is criminally liable are whether it could have foreseen the risk of the sinking and whether the accident could have been avoided.

The ship’s operator had set a wind speed of 8 meters per second and a wave height of 1 meter as criteria for canceling a tour. On the day of the incident, strong winds and high waves exceeding the criteria were forecast, but the president said he discussed the matter with the captain and they decided to proceed with the operation on the condition that the vessel should turn back if the seas became rough.

The captain’s cell phone was out of range for most of the route and the radio antenna in the office was broken.

It is necessary to determine how these problems regarding safety management led to the incident.

After it was brought ashore, the ship was shown to some people including the families of the passengers. Some of the people laid flowers and cried. The families called for a thorough investigation.

In a 2010 case in which a junior high school student died when a rowboat capsized on Hamanako lake in Hamamatsu while being towed by a motorboat, it took more than four years to indict the man who was operating the motorboat. Negligence cases often take time to investigate, but responsibility should be strictly pursued.

In addition to the coast guard investigation, the central government has expressed its intention to revoke the business license of the operator. The sloppiness of the government’s checks has also been raised as an issue and the government has said it will work to strengthen audits of such operators.

The summer tourist season will soon start. Sightseeing companies should review the safety management of their vehicles, vessels and aircraft as well as their facilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2022)