A collision between a Japanese submarine and a cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean has resulted in injuries to at least three submariners, according to initial reports. The incident occurred today at 10:58 AM local time, around 25 miles southeast of Cape Ashizuri, in the waters off the island of Shikoku, which lies southwest of Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The submarine involved was the first-in-class Soryu, one of 11 of these diesel-electric attack submarines active with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The submarine entered service in 2009 and was taking part in a routine training exercise at the time of the collision.
The Soryu, which has a surfaced displacement of approximately 2,900 tons and a length of just over 275 feet, scraped the hull of the commercial vessel as it was surfacing, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.
Unconfirmed reports suggest the cargo ship was the bulk carrier Ocean Artemis, which departed the Chinese city of Qingdao on Friday and was headed for Okayama Prefecture in western Japan. With 51,000 gross tons and a length of 750 feet, the Ocean Artemis is registered in Hong Kong and was transporting iron ore.
Japanese government officials stated that three crew members on the submarine suffered minor injuries that did not require hospital treatment. Supposedly, damage to the Soryu was limited to a mast housing a periscope and a communication antenna and the submarine was able to continue. However, it is not known if it headed back to its homeport at Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture.
The damage to the antenna mast seems to have resulted in a total loss of communications and the submarine was required to navigate to a location where the crew could contact their base headquarters using mobile phones. This resulted in a delay of three and a half hours before the crew of the Soryu could report the accident.
A series of images provided by the Japan Coast Guard — including the photo at the top of this feature — that show the Soryu after the incident reveal additional and more serious damage to the submarine, especially to its sail and dive planes. The photos were taken from one of the Coast Guard’s Saab 340B maritime patrol aircraft.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told members of the press that the commercial vessel had reported to the Japan Coast Guard that no impact was felt, and it does not appear to have sustained any damage. So far, there have been no reports of injuries to any of the crew of the commercial vessel.