Fast Ferry Collides with "Whale," Injuring 80 Passengers

Image courtesy Japan Coast Guard

Published Mar 12, 2019 8:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Saturday, 13 people were seriously injured when a high-speed hydrofoil ferry struck a submerged object off the coast of Sado Island, Japan. The Japan Coast Guard and operator Sado Steam Ship believe that the object was a "marine animal," likely a whale. 

The Niigata-Ryotso ferry is an ultra-fast vessel capable of making more than 40 knots, and its hull emerges fully from the water at operating speed. At 1215 hours, it was in the middle of its run to Sado Island when it experienced an abrupt slowdown. About 80 passengers sustained varying degrees of injury as they were thrown forward, including 13 with broken bones and other serious injuries. 

The vessel safely made it to port at Ryotso at about 1330 hours, and an inspection revealed damage to its rear hydrofoil and a six-inch crack towards the stern. The Japan Coast Guard believes that the ferry may have struck a whale, and the Japan Transport Safety Board has launched an investigation. 

NKH reports that similar accidents are not uncommon in the region. In 2016, a hydrofoil ferry was disabled after apparently striking a whale off Izu Oshima Island, near Tokyo.