Govt conducts hearing from boat operator for license revocation

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Office of the operator of sunken Kazu I boat in Shari, Hokkaido

SAPPORO (Jiji Press) — The transport ministry on Tuesday conducted a hearing from the operator of the tour boat that sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido in April, in a step to revoke the company’s business license.

The ministry is expected to decide the license cancellation soon. “We’ll conduct a close examination [of the results of the hearing] and take the punitive step swiftly,” a ministry official said.

It will be the first license revocation following an accident under the marine transportation law. Shiretoko Yuransen, the operator of the sunken Kazu I boat, will thus face the severest punishment stipulated in the law.

The Kazu I sank off the peninsula on April 23, leaving 14 of the 26 passengers and crew members aboard dead and the 12 others missing.

The hearing took place at the ministry’s Hokkaido District Transport Bureau. It is a necessary step to revoke the operating license, giving the operator a chance to give an explanation.

While being absent from the hearing, Seiichi Katsurada, president of Shiretoko Yuransen, based in the Hokkaido town of Shari, submitted a statement to the regulators beforehand.

In the document, Katsurada claimed: “It does not make sense that only Shiretoko Yuransen should be held responsible for the accident. The government is also responsible, due to its supervisory role.”

The statement also argued against some of the law violations recognized by the ministry as a result its special investigation of the accident, conducted for a month from April 24, a day after the incident.

Among the law violations, Katsurada, the service operation manager at the company, had falsely reported to transport authorities that he meets the requirement of having at least three years of experience in operational management.

Also, Shiretoko Yuransen was found to have decided the operation of the Kazu I on the day of the accident amid a bad weather forecast although sailing under such weather conditions highly likely amounted to a violation of the operational standards.