MATSUYAMA, Ehime Pref. – Shipbuilders started work Wednesday in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, on a new fisheries training vessel to succeed the Ehime Maru.
The original ship sank off Hawaii last year after being rammed by a surfacing U.S. submarine, with the loss of nine lives.
About 20 people, including Hisao Onishi, captain of the sunken Ehime Maru, and Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato attended the keel-laying ceremony at a shipyard of Shin Kurushima Dockyard Co.
“(This ceremony) reminded me of all that has happened since the accident,” Onishi said afterward. “I don’t know if I will be a crew member on the new vessel, but I just hope it will be a safe ship.”
The vessel is expected to be completed in November and to go into full operation as a fishery training ship for students at Uwajima Fisheries High School next April, after being launched and undergoing a shakedown cruise.
The construction cost is estimated at 1.39 billion yen.
The Ehime Prefectural Government and the U.S. Navy reached a settlement on April 10 for the navy to pay $11.47 million (about 1.5 billion yen) in compensation, which will be used to build the new ship, prefectural officials said.
The 499-ton Ehime Maru sank Feb. 9, 2001, after it was struck by the 6,080-ton USS Greeneville, which was performing a rapid-surfacing drill for the benefit of civilian guests aboard.
Nine of the 35 people aboard the Ehime Maru died in the accident, including four 17-year-old students at the fisheries school. The remains of eight were recovered in a U.S. Navy search of the wreckage that ended in November. The body of one student was not found.