Chemical tanker sinks off Niigata, leaving one dead, captain missing

NIIGATA (Kyodo) A small tanker transporting a flammable chemical sank off the coast of Niigata Prefecture on Sunday morning, leaving one crew member dead and the captain missing, Japan Coast Guard officials said.

The 499-ton tanker Seiyoh, with a crew of five, capsized in the Sea of Japan about 1 1/2 hours after telling the coast guard it was listing and partially submerged, the officials said.

Four of the crew were rescued by a patrol ship and taken to a Niigata hospital, but Hideki Yamano, the 46-year-old chief engineer, was in cardiopulmonary arrest and died, they said.

According to the No. 9 Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Niigata, two patrol ships and a helicopter have been launched to find the captain, Katsutoshi Sato, 47.

The Seiyoh was carrying 1,000 tons of vinyl acetate monomer when it left the city of Oita in Kyushu on Thursday, said the company that owns the tanker. It was scheduled to arrive at Niigata port on Monday.

The crew told the company at around 6:20 a.m. Sunday that they had to abandon ship because water flooded the engine compartment and the vessel was listing badly, the firm said.

The ship was being buffeted by 36-kph winds and nearly 4-meter waves, they said.