Head of Hokkaido tour boat operator: Fatal accident could have been avoided

NHK -- May 04
The president of a tour boat operator in Hokkaido Prefecture, northern Japan, has stated in a document that a fatal accident last month could have been avoided if safety protocols were followed.

The company's "KAZU I" tour boat sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula on April 23. There were 26 people on board. Fourteen have been confirmed dead. The rest are unaccounted for.

The vessel was operated by Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser. Company President Katsurada Seiichi recently met relatives of passengers. He distributed a document titled "On my fault," in which he apologizes for the accident.

The document also points out that the boat's captain was required to provide a status report to the cruise manager at the company's office at each of 13 designated points.

It says the report should include the time, weather conditions and wave height.

The document says no such reports were made or recorded on the day of the accident.

It also names Katsurada as the company's cruise manager. Safety management rules require him to remain at the office in principle when tour boats are operating.

The document says Katsurada was away from the office to go to a hospital on the day of the accident, and that he had not instructed an employee to keep in contact with the boat's captain or stay informed about the cruise.

The document says the accident may have been averted if normal protocols were followed.

Japan Coast Guard officials searched the company's office and other facilities on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death.

They plan to investigate the company's safety management system and the president's decision to go ahead with the cruise, despite knowing about the possibility of weather conditions worsening that day.