Two Japanese cargo ships collided while traveling through the Kurushima Strait in the Seto Inland Sea on the night of February 2 with one of the vessels capsizing and later sinking. Three of the vessel’s crew were located, while the search was ongoing for the vessel’s captain and first officer, who were both reported missing. TV images appear to show that at least one person has died. The second vessel was damaged but able to proceed to port with no injuries to the four crew aboard.
The Japan Coast Guard Imabari station received reports of the collision at 7:30 p.m. local time on February 2 and dispatched a patrol boat and was also receiving assistance from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and nearby fishing vessels. Three of the crew members were rescued from the waters.
Officials are saying that the strait in addition to being a very busy sea lane is also one of the most challenging because navigation is impacted by the direction of the tidal current. Depending on the flow of the current navigation shifts from one side to the other in the strait. The strait has been the scene of several accidents including a May 2021 collision of a cargo ship and tanker that killed three people.
The two vessels were near the western entrance to the Kurushina Strait at the time of the collision. The 2,100 dwt cargo ship Seiryu transporting a cargo of limestone had departed the Tsukumi Port and after a stop in Hiroshima was approaching the strait on its route to Fukuyama Port where it was due to arrive on February 3.
The Coast Guard believes the 1,700 dwt cargo ship Koei Maru was emerging from the strait on a voyage from Osaka. The last AIS report indicates the Seiryu was traveling at approximately 10 knots when it appears she was struck by the bow of the Koei Maru. The Seiryu capsized and later sunk.
Video from the scene and later at Imabari port shows significant damage to the bow of the Koei Maru from the collision. The Japan Coast Guard permitted the vessel to travel to Imabari on Friday morning.
A special rescue team was on the scene and they were also conducting a submersible survey inside the sunken ship. So far, they have not found any signs of the two missing officers from the vessel.