• Kyodo

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A ferry carrying 490 passengers and crew members arrived in Akita port Monday morning after being anchored off Funakawa, Akita Prefecture, overnight due to engine trouble.

Seven passengers who suffered serious seasickness or fever were taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance, according to the local fire department.

After repairs and a safety check, the 17,329-ton Suisen departed for its original destination of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, in the afternoon. Only 159 of the original 456 passengers stayed aboard. It was to arrive in Tsuruga early Tuesday morning.

The remaining passengers chose to travel by bus to Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. The bus service was provided by ShinNihonkai Ferry Co., the vessel’s operator.

Suisen became disabled about 55 km northwest of the Nyudozaki lighthouse on the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture at around 7:30 a.m. Sunday. It drifted for nearly seven hours after its engine broke down in the Sea of Japan off the prefecture.

The engine was later temporarily repaired, and the ferry began moving slowly on its own, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The vessel left waters off Funakawa port in the city of Oga at 7 a.m. Monday and arrived at Akita port about two hours later.

The captain, Akihiko Okazaki, apologized for the incident during a news conference on board the vessel Monday afternoon. However, he said that he had followed the proper procedures and that information was appropriately relayed to passengers.

Isami Yamada, chief engineer, said that a motor that cools the ship’s engine malfunctioned after seawater had come in through the ventilation ducts.

“Pipes that are supposed to get rid of the water may have been clogged,” Yamada said, adding that it was a situation that could not be checked by regular inspections and had never happened before.

The 200-meter-long ferry, also transporting 159 cars and 94 trucks, left Tomakomai in Hokkaido at 11:50 p.m. Saturday and was originally scheduled to arrive in Tsuruga at 8:15 p.m. Sunday.

Coast guard officials said that winds at sea were around 72 kph and waves about 4 meters high.

Passengers formed long lines at the ferry terminal to get refunds for their tickets.

A 25-year-old woman from the city of Sanda, Hyogo Prefecture, who was returning from a ski trip, said she had been concerned because the ferry swayed violently during the night.

“I’m supposed to be back at work today, and I’m in a fix,” she added.

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