Wreck of missing Japanese tour boat found off Hokkaido

MARITIME SECURITY WEEK
Photo: Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser

Vessel crews of the Japan Coast Guard and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force have discovered the wreckage of a tour boat that had disappeared off the northern main island of Hokkaido late last month.

The wreckage of the tour boat Kazu I, which is owned by local operator Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser, was located via sonar at a depth of 120 metres off Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula on Friday, April 29.

The discovery was made six days after the vessel and the 26 people on board went missing on April 23.

The bodies of 14 of the vessel’s passengers and crew were pulled out of the water during the subsequent search and recovery operation, which is still ongoing.

One of the deceased was reportedly found by the crew of a Russian Border Service patrol boat just off Russian-held Kunashiri Island east of Shiretoko on Thursday, April 28. This individual was later recovered and positively identified by Japan Coast Guard personnel as one of the people who had been on the ill-fated tour boat.

Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser president Seiichi Katsurada confessed during a recent press conference that Kazu I was ordered to sail on its scheduled excursion for April 23 despite a forecast of rough seas and strong winds in the area.

Local police officials have meanwhile raided the operator’s offices in Hokkaido to search for evidence of professional negligence leading to the tragedy.

The loss of Kazu I is the latest in a string of accidents involving the vessel according to the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

In May 2021, the tour boat collided with a floating object, leaving three passengers with varying degrees of injury. The following month, it ran aground shortly after it left port.

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