Preparatory work for salvage of Hokkaido tour boat completed

Preparatory work to rescue a tourist boat that sank off Hokkaido last month, killing 14 and 12 people still missing, was completed on Saturday.

The lifting of the 19-ton Kazu I will now take place possibly on Tuesday. The boat, which is currently lying on the seabed about 120 meters below the surface, went missing off the Shiretoko Peninsula on April 23.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on May 19, 2022, shows the barge Kaishin at the site of a tour boat that sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula on Japan’s northernmost main island, Hokkaido, April 23. On the right is a Japanese coast guard. patrol vessel. (Kyodo)

After a two-day search for bodies inside the boat until Friday, divers from the Nippon Salvage Co. checked that the boat was safe to raise, according to the Japanese Coast Guard.

The private company has been contracted by the Coast Guard and will work with the Department of Transport to salvage the boat. The whole operation is expected to cost around 140 million yen ($1 million).

Bad weather is expected, so the next phase will not start until Tuesday at the earliest. This will see the vessel lifted approximately 10-20 meters before being towed into shallow water. A crane will then be used to lift Kazu I and put it on a barge, which will then transport it to a nearby port.

The Coast Guard continued to search the area with aircraft and patrol boats.

Two bodies, possibly missing, were found stranded on Kunashiri Island, one of the Russian-controlled and Japanese-claimed islands near Hokkaido, according to the coast guard.

A Japanese driver’s license was found near an organism, suggesting it could be a 27-year-old deckhand, the Coast Guard said on Saturday. The body of a woman was discovered on May 6.

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Japanese government to recover Hokkaido tour boat next week, 12 still missing