KITAKYUSHU – The skipper of a Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine that struck a tanker off Miyazaki Prefecture last year admitted Monday at a maritime accident inquiry session that he was to blame.
“The responsibility for the accident lies with me. I bore the operational responsibility,” Cmdr. Nario Kumamoto, 46, said during the session at the Moji Marine Accident Inquiry Agency.
Investigators asked the agency to recommend that Kumamoto, who was in command of the 2,900-ton training submarine Asashio at the time of the accident, maintain a better watch for marine traffic.
The investigators’ office also asked the MSDF to refrain from conducting surfacing drills in areas with heavy traffic, including off Miyazaki, where the Asashio hit the Panamanian-registered chemical tanker Spring Auster while surfacing Nov. 21.
The inquiry session was concluded Monday, with the cause of the accident and disciplinary action, if any, to be issued later.
The investigators’ office argued during the session that Kumamoto “did not pay sufficient attention to the tanker’s movements because he was distracted by the instructions he was giving to crew members even though he had been warned of the approaching tanker.”
The commander said, “I didn’t think it posed an immediate danger.”
No one was injured in the accident, in which the sub’s tail fin struck the tanker’s bottom.