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Safety panel begins probe into near-collision involving MSDF ship


The Japanese transport safety authority Tuesday started an investigation into a near-collision involving a Maritime Self-Defense Force training ship last week in the Kammon Strait.

The Japan Transport Safety Board dispatched two officials to conduct an on-site investigation as the incident could have led to an accident. The strait divides Honshu, Japan's largest main island, from the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

The MSDF's Shimayuki training ship nearly collided with a Panama-registered freighter carrying automobiles around 8:50 p.m. on June 11, according to the Japan Coast Guard and MSDF.

The 3,050-ton training ship took a wrong route and approached the 20,000-ton freighter at a distance of about 250 meters, Japan Coast Guard said.

That incident "was a serious near-miss which cannot be overlooked," said an official of the 7th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a news conference on Tuesday morning, "I've got a report that (the ships) were not in such a dangerous situation."

MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano told a separate news conference later in the day that Miho Otani, commanding officer of the training ship, was questioned by the coast guard.

"I took the incident seriously," Kawano said.

In October 2009, an MSDF destroyer collided with a South Korean container ship in the Kammon Strait.