Russia to join in tanker bow probe

Japan and Russia agreed Feb. 10 to jointly examine in Japan the bow section of the Russian tanker that has spilled thousands of kiloliters of oil into Japanese waters, Transport Ministry officials said Feb. 10.

While the two governments continue to disagree on the reason the 13,157-ton Nakhodka broke apart and sank off the Sea of Japan coast, they will investigate the case further as soon as the bow section is pulled out of the sea, the officials said. Moscow gave up its initial plan to bring back the bow section to Russia due to the technical difficulty of such an operation, they said.

Last week, officials of the two governments held a three-day meeting in Moscow to discuss methods for studying the disaster. They agreed to cooperate and keep close contact with each other in conducting the probe, the officials said.

The Russian government issued an interim report last month based on its preliminary investigation of the case. Japan obtained the report and other information on the tanker from the Russian side during the three-day talks, the officials said.

The report by the Russian government reportedly concluded that the tanker sank after hitting some floating or submerged object, denying suggestions from some Japanese experts that the ship was too old to survive stormy weather. During a news conference Feb. 10, Transport Minister Makoto Koga cast doubts over the Russian government’s analysis of the accident, although he refused to disclose details of the report. “I have the impression that the report was not based on scientific and technological studies,” he said.