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4TH LD: 1 dead, 5 missing as tankers collide off Mie in dense fog.

TSU, Japan, July 15 Kyodo


A 697-ton fuel tanker burst into flames early Friday after being rammed by a coastal bulk carrier off Mie Prefecture in thick fog, killing one crew member, seriously injuring another and leaving five missing, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The five crew members on the 499-ton Nikko Maru, which collided with the Kyokuyo Maru, were rescued unharmed by a nearby ship.

Flames burst from the Kyokuyo Maru after benzene started leaking from the ship.

The vessel, carrying 2,000 kiloliters of benzene, sustained a large mid-ship hole on the starboard side after the collision, which took place around 4:05 a.m. about 28 kilometers off Cape Mikizaki in Mie.

The fire was still burning early Friday afternoon.

Hidetoshi Nakano, 39, a second engineer, was thrown into the sea and died. The Coast Guard said the five missing crew members -- probably trapped inside the Kyokuyo Maru -- included Captain Genichi Sato, 55.

The Nikko Maru, which was loaded with 1,000 tons of creosote oil, a flammable liquid, was partially submerged after catching fire.

A dense fog warning was in effect at the time of the collision. Visibility was about 39 meters at the time, according to the local meteorological observatory.

The Coast Guard arrested Hisao Ueno, the Nikko Maru's 53-year-old chief mate, Friday evening on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and bodily injury and endangering traffic, its sources said.

According to Nikko Maru Captain Mitoshi Yoshimoto, two crew members were on the bridge at the time of the collision. They tried to change course after they noticed the ship's radar showed the Kyokuyo Maru was about 7.4 km away. They steered left, but it was too late, Yoshimoto told authorities.

The location, where ships change course, has been the site of many collisions.

The Coast Guard has dispatched a helicopter and patrol boats to search the area.

Late on Thursday, two other collisions occurred in thick fog off Wakayama and Shizuoka prefectures.

Two chemical tankers -- the 199-ton Toho Maru and 198-ton Shoshin Maru -- collided in an area about 2.5 km east of the town of Kushimoto, Wakayama. The captain of the Shoshin Maru, Yukihiko Aoki, 52, sustained minor injuries. No oil leaks were reported.

In another collision, a tanker carrying edible oil and a barge transporting gravel collided off Shizuoka Prefecture but no one was injured, the coast guard said.

The Horai Maru No. 18, a 359-ton barge, sank but its five crew members were rescued by the 689-ton tanker, the Ryoka Maru.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Jul 18, 2005
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