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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 June 12 - 18  > Maritime law again downplayed in lawsuit over MSDF Aegis crash killing 2 fishermen
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2013 June 12 - 18 [SDF]

Maritime law again downplayed in lawsuit over MSDF Aegis crash killing 2 fishermen

June 12, 2013
The Tokyo High Court on June 11 upheld a lower court decision acquitting two ex-officers of a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel which had caused a collision off the coast in early 2008 killing two civilian fishermen.

Following the Yokohama District Court decision, the high court also put on the shelf the principle that vessels must use all means to evade the risk of collisions as stipulated in the Act for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

An expert in maritime accidents pointed out that the court again downplayed the international collision avoidance rules.

Bereaved family members, who sat in on the trial, later said, “We simply cannot abide by the judgment.”

The MSDF Aegis-equipped destroyer Atago collided with the tuna trawler Seitoku Maru on the sea off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture on February 19 in 2008, resulting in the death of a 58-year-old man and his 23-year-old son.

An officer on duty and a chief navigator at that time on the Atago had been charged with professional negligence.

The Yokohama Marine Accident Tribunal in 2009 recommended that the MSDF take preventive measures by attributing the collision to the Atago. The Ministry of Defense also pointed to the duty officer’s negligence and lack of proper communication on the Atago.

However, the Yokohama District Court in 2011 found the two accused not guilty, allowing them to continue with their duties.

Unlike the two court decisions, several experts pointed out that: the Seitoku Maru, as a stand-on vessel, which was obliged to keep her speed and course was expecting the Atago to give way, but the Atago did not take evasive action and so the Seitoku Maru was forced to hastily attempt to avoid collision by her maneuver alone but in vain.

Past related articles:
> MSDF Aegis ship found not liable for fatal collision [May 12, 2011]
> Blame for collision lies mainly with MSDF destroyer Atago [January 23, 2009]
> Create peaceful ocean for safe fishing: JCP Shii [March 30, 2008]

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