Bereaved Families Sue Operator over Boat Accident

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building housing the Sapporo District Court and the Sapporo High Court

SAPPORO (Jiji Press) — Bereaved families of victims of an accident caused by the Kazu I sightseeing tour boat off Hokkaido in 2022 sued the boat’s operator and its president for damages on Wednesday.

In the lawsuit filed with Sapporo District Court, the plaintiffs, including the 29 family members of 14 passengers of the sunken boat, are seeking some ¥1.499 billion in damages from Shiretoko Yuransen, the boat’s operator based in the Hokkaido town of Shari, and its president, Seiichi Katsurada, 61.

In the afternoon on April 23, 2022, the boat sank off the coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, leaving 20 passengers and crew members aboard dead and six others missing.

In its final report released in September 2023, the Japan Transport Safety Board concluded that the direct cause of the sinking was flooding from a faulty hatch on the bow deck. The report pointed out that the boat’s hull and its communications devices were not maintained sufficiently and that the operator had no safety management system.

Last year, the parents of a then 27-year-old crew member who died in the accident filed a damages lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court against the Japanese government and the government-commissioned Japan Craft Inspection Organization, which inspected the Kazu I boat before the accident, and also against Katsurada and his firm.

The 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, based in the Hokkaido city of Otaru, is investigating Katsurada with the prospect of building a case against him on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death.