Japan arrests Chinese seaman over fatal collision

Oct. 1, 2013 at 1:04 AM
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TOKYO, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Japan's coast guard has arrested a Chinese crewman of a Sierra Leone-registered vessel following a deadly collision with a Japanese ship last week.

Five people died and one remains missing -- a 61-year-old first engineer -- after the 2,962-ton freighter Jia Hui collided with the smaller, 498-ton, Japanese-registered coastal cargo ship Eifuku Maru No. 18 Friday.

The dead and the missing seaman made up the crew of the Eifuku Maru, which capsized. The Jia Hui, with 13 crew, suffered little damage, the coast guard said

The collision happened around 1:25 a.m. in Japanese waters 7 miles west of Izu Oshima Island, around 60 miles south of Tokyo.

Police arrested Xia Hong-bo, 35, who was on duty aboard the Jia Hui at the time of the collision, the Kyodo News Agency reported.

Xia is being questioned on suspicion of professional negligence. Kyodo reported Xia told investigators he had been trying to avoid the collision.

Japan Daily Press reported the Jia Hui had set out from Kawasaki City, Japan, bound for the South Korean port of Busan.

The Eifuku Maru, owned by a shipping company based in Nagoya, was heading for Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture, carrying a cargo of steel.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo confirmed the arrest of Xia and urged Japanese authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly and quickly.

Police are on board the Jia Hui questioning the crew of 12 Chinese and one Malay seamen.

Chinese embassy officials will visit the crew and Xia Thursday, Xhinua reported.

Last October the Japanese coast guard rescued all 64 crew aboard a Taiwanese cargo ship that had caught fire in waters near Japan's Okinawa Island.

Kyodo reported at the time that aircraft and patrol vessels were sent to the area after Taiwanese authorities informed the coast guard the 12,700-ton Ming Yang was on fire about 95 miles southeast of Okinawa.

Coast guard vessels picked up 21 crew who had escaped in a life raft.

Last week's collision and the October ship rescue come at a time of sensitive maritime relations between Japan and its neighbors.

Japanese coast guard vessels are monitoring Chinese surveillance vessels near the long-disputed Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea that are administered by Japan, but claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands.

The Senkakus lie about 100 miles north of Japan's Ishigaki Island and about 115 miles northeast of Taiwan, as its territory under treaties signed in the late 1800s.

At the end of World War II the islands were under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the captured Japanese island of Okinawa. Japan has administered them since 1972 when Okinawa was returned to Japan.

The Japan Times reported in early September China acknowledged it had carried out 59 ship "patrols" in waters around the islands in the previous 12 months.

China said every patrol had been warned off by Japanese ships, the Japan Times reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Parliament in April Japan would respond with force if China attempts to land on the disputed Senkaku Islands, the BBC reported.

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