TOKYO: Japan’s transport ministry decided on Friday to start operations Saturday to salvage the Kazu I tour boat, which sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, last month.
The boat, which currently lies on the seabed at a depth of some 120 meters, is expected to be moved onto a work vessel as early as Monday, after being lifted close to the sea surface by wires Sunday.
Among a total of 26 passengers and crew members who were on the boat, 14 have been so far discovered and confirmed dead.
At a task force meeting on Friday, transport minister Tetsuo Saito instructed the start of the salvage work as part of operations to search for missing people, identify the cause of the accident, thoroughly examine who should be held responsible and consider measures to prevent similar accidents.
The ministry believes that the boat can be salvaged as there was no major damage confirmed on the hull by divers who also searched for the 12 missing people in a deep-sea diving mission on Thursday and Friday.
The ministry has signed an additional contract to spend about 140 million yen to salvage the tour boat, boosting total costs of responding to the accident to some 1 billion yen.
The ministry is not planning to demand the tour boat’s operator pay the salvage cost, as the operator is not legally obliged to salvage the sunken boat.