Russian and Japanese Vessels Collide at Sea, Three People Dead

Three Japanese crew on board a fishing boat have been killed following a collision with a Russian vessel.

An investigation into the circumstances of Wednesday's incident in the Sea of Okhotsk, around 14 miles from the port of Monbetsu in Hokkaido, is under way.

Russia's Embassy in Japan said in a statement on Facebook that the Russian fishing trawler Amur collided with the Japanese fishing schooner Hokko-Maru 8 at around 6 a.m. local time.

The Japanese side claims that the incident took place in Japanese territorial waters, the statement added.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement: "We deeply regret what happened. We express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims.

"We are in constant contact with the Japanese side, specifying all the circumstances of the incident. We believe that it will be objective and unbiased by the competent authorities."

There were five people aboard the Japanese vessel, which they could not move out of the way in time because they were catching crabs with ropes, according to Kyodo News agency.

The agency said there were 23 crew members on board the Russian vessel, which was transporting seafood to Mombetsu from Sakhalin in Russia's Far East.

Japan's coast guard named the dead as Masayoshi Numahata, a 64-year-old chief engineer, and Shunsuke Konno, 39, and Masatoshi Inoue, 37, who were both deckhands, Kyodo News reported. The other two on board were rescued alive and taken to shore, with one slightly injured.

A spokesperson for Russia's Marine Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk said preliminary data showed that the accident may have been caused "by difficult weather conditions."

"(Poor) Visibility in the area of ​​the collision did not allow the teams to visually identify each other," the agency said in a statement to Interfax, a Russian news agency.

"In particular, it is necessary to establish whether the equipment warning of a dangerous approach was available and worked on the ships, and what actions both teams took," the MRCC spokesperson added.

There had been a dense fog warning off Mombetsu port at the time. Japan's maritime safety department has sent patrol ships to the area as part of its investigation.

The Russian vessel is owned by the Amurskoye fishing company and is registered in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. A company spokesperson told Tass that the Russian crew were fine.

"It is too early for us to make any assessment of damage, or provide any other information. We are now working with inspectors. The accident occurred in Japan's zone, so it is too early to say anything now," the spokesperson added.

Newsweek has contacted Russia's Embassy in Japan for comment.

The Sea of Okhotsk is shown
A general view of the Sea of Okhotsk is shown in this illustrative image. Three fishermen have died after two vessels collided in the body of water on 26 May 2021.