The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s 5,200-ton helicopter destroyer Kurama collided Tuesday night with the oncoming 7,400-ton Carina Star, a South Korean containership, in a 700-meter-wide bottleneck of Kanmon Strait, between Honshu and Kyushu. Fortunately, the 5-inch gun ammunition compartment on the Kurama did not ignite, but a storehouse of paint cans in the bow section caught fire. The accident highlighted the dangers of narrow passages at sea. Six Kurama crew members were slightly injured, the only casualties. The Japan Coast Guard must carry out a thorough investigation and disclose its findings without delay.

The accident was reminiscent of the Feb. 19, 2008, collision between the MSDF’s 7,700-ton Aegis destroyer Atago and a small fishing boat off Cape Nojima, Chiba Prefecture, which killed two fishermen. In May 2009, an MSDF investigation panel’s report attributed the accident to insufficient watch by the Atago’s crew. Moreover, 1 1/2 hours passed before then Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba was informed. The MSDF apparently learned a lesson from the Atago incident, as the defense minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, was informed about the Kurama incident within 15 minutes.

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