Concerns Arise Over Lack of Proficiency Among MSDF Personnel

It is out of the question that the Maritime Self-Defense Force, which is supposed to protect safety on the sea, has caused an accident in peacetime, stirring up anxiety among the people. The lack of proficiency of the Self-Defense Forces personnel has become a cause for concern.

The MSDF destroyer Inazuma, whose home port is the Kure base in Hiroshima Prefecture, suffered an impact to its hull while sailing off the coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture and became unable to sail on its own. The destroyer was on a test operation in the Seto Inland Sea after undergoing inspections at a shipyard in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Investigations revealed that the sonar at the front of the Inazuma’s hull and the screws at the stern were damaged. It is believed that the ship hit something in the sea. None of the 190 crew members and others on board were injured.

There are many rock reefs around the accident site, and there was a shallow area 7 meters deep. The depth from the waterline to the bottom of the Inazuma is 8 meters. Therefore, it is said to be highly likely the ship hit the rocks in the shallows by mistake and became inoperable.

The Seto Inland Sea is a frequent route for MSDF destroyers and submarines.

Why did the Inazuma pass near the dangerous shallows when its crew is supposed to be familiar with the area? Were the lookout and chart checks carried out according to procedure? The MSDF and the Japan Coast Guard, which is investigating the accident, should hurry to determine the cause and clarify the details.

The accident occurred in the early afternoon. The weather was fine and visibility was good. Having occurred under ideal navigational conditions, the accident raises suspicions that the crew may have been conducting the training exercise carelessly.

On the day of the accident, the local fishermen’s cooperative had decided not to fish due to strong winds. However, the area is a good fishing ground, and commercial and pleasure fishing boats usually sail around. A single misstep could have resulted in a serious accident.

It is only natural that Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, “This is a matter of great danger, and we are taking it very seriously.”

The destroyer leaked oil. There is a coral colony near the accident site. For this reason, the destroyer was towed away five days after the accident after the leaks were repaired.

It is shameful that a key MSDF vessel has been unable to operate for days because it was forced to deal with an accident.

There have been many accidents involving the MSDF. In 2014, a transport ship and a fishing boat collided off the coast of Hiroshima Prefecture, killing two people on the fishing boat. In 2021, a submarine and a cargo ship collided off the coast of Kochi Prefecture. The MSDF needs to enhance the training and education of its personnel.

In order to strengthen its defense capabilities, the government intends to substantially increase the defense budget and expand the SDF’s equipment. However, no matter how much their equipment is increased, it is not good enough if the personnel cannot fully utilize it. The SDF must be aware of its responsibility.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2023)