The captain of a Japanese oil tanker has been reported missing after the ship caught fire off the south western coast of Japan, near the port of Himeji on early Thursday morning. The incident left one person missing – presumed to be the captain of the ship. According to Japanese coast guard authorities, the ship had a crew of eight people, of which seven have been rescued. Four people are being treated for serious injuries while the rest have minor wounds, reports The Independent.
The vessel involved in the accident is the 998-tonne ‘Shoko Maru,’ which had unloaded a cargo of crude oil at a nearby port just a few hours prior to the mishap. According to rescued crew members, the ship was near the coast off Japan’s Hyogo prefecture when an explosion rocked the boat at around 9:30 am local time. Many of the workers were on the deck when the blast happened. According to Japan Daily Press, while the ship immediately caught fire, the extent of the damage could have been worse had the ship not been emptied off its crude oil cargo a few hours earlier.
The ship is under the ownership of Syoho Shipping Company, based out of Hiroshima. An official from the company told the local press that preliminary investigations are still underway to determine the cause of the explosion. Meanwhile, there is talk about the explosion being accidentally caused by a worker who was using a grinder to remove old paint from the vessel. This is yet to be confirmed, though.
All eight crew members aboard the ship were Japanese nationals, and seven of them have been confirmed to have survived the blast. The captain of the ship, a 64-year-old maritime veteran, is still missing. Rescue operations are still underway at the location of the blast. Local news stations showed the vessel with its middle part engulfed in flames and thick smoke, being surrounded by other ships and aircraft in an attempt to extinguish the flames.
Meanwhile, an ongoing debate inside the Japanese parliament was interrupted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to break the news about the shipping mishap to his fellow parliamentarians. Authorities have confirmed that the area where the explosion occurred is safe for other ships in the vicinity.
The news of this shipping related incident comes little over a month after the infamous South Korean ferry disaster that took the lives of over 200 school children.
[Image via Japanese Coast Guard]