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Japanese submarine collides with commercial ship while surfacing in Pacific

It is reported that on the morning of February 8, off the coast of Honshu, the non-nuclear submarine SS 501 Soryu of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, while surfacing to periscope depth, collided with the bulk carrier Ocean Artemis (90 thousand dwt) under the Hong Kong flag. The boat suffered damage to its light hull, retractable fencing and horizontal rudders, and three crew members were injured.

Photo (c) Japanese Coast Guard

The Defense Ministry said communications equipment on the sub was also damaged, although it was still able to operate.

"Soryu scraped the hull of the vessel as it was surfacing. It is extremely regrettable the MSDF submarine has collided with a commercial ship," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.

The commercial vessel -- the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Ocean Artemis -- reported no damage, Coast Guard officials added. Bradley Martin, a RAND Corp analyst and former US Navy captain who analyzed images of the damage, said the impact would have restricted the submarine's capabilities.

"I wouldn't call the damage 'minor.' The submarine can't dive and can't communicate," Martin said in an email to CNN. The incident comes almost 20 years to the day after a US nuclear-powered attack submarine accidentally hit and sank a Japanese fishing vessel, killing nine people -- including four high school students -- near Honolulu.

The USS Greeneville was conducting an emergency surfacing demonstration for civilian guests aboard when it came up under the Japanese ship, the Ehime Maru, on February 9, 2001. The fisheries training vessel, carrying students and teachers from a fisheries high school in Uwajima, Japan, sank within minutes.

Rescuers saved 26 people. The US Navy paid a total of $16.5 million in compensation to victims and families of those killed. The sub's commander, Scott Waddle, was found guilty of dereliction of duty and negligent hazarding of a vessel by a military court of inquiry and forced to retire.

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