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Safety shortcuts factor in fatal ships collision

Date Posted: 2008-10-31

A full investigation is under way into last weeks collision between a freighter and a fishing trawler that left three men dead, but allegations are already flying that shortcuts in safety procedures may have been at fault.

Rising fuel costs are at the root of the issue, fishermen say, as every ship and fishing boat operator searches for ways to cut costs. In the case of fishermen, they oftentimes stay on the water at night instead of returning to fishing ports, saving fuel. They say the move adds to safety concerns because navigation is more difficult when people are tired.

Large ships have the same concerns about fuel costs, choosing routes that burn the least amount of the heavy crude. The channel between Minna Island and Sesoko Island, where last weeks fatal collision occurred is less than two kilometers wide. Its too narrow for large ships, one fisherman says, but added they take shortcuts to save oil, too.

The 11th Maritime Safety Office of the Japan Coast Guard is investigating the collision, which took place near Minna Island, not too far from Motobu Town in northern Okinawa. Three fishermen were killed when the 9,000 ton freighter carrying container cargo from Osaka to Naha sliced the fishing trawler in half, sending the six crewmen into the water. Three were rescued.

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