Shoko Maru, a Japanese oil tanker, has exploded near Himeli port (off Japan's south-west coast). The incident happened today at around 9:30 AM local time and resulted in four crew members severely burned, the captain of the vessel is missing. According to the Japanese coast guard, there were 8 people on board Shoko Maru. The other three crew members are in good health condition. The search for the missing captain is ongoing.
The explosion occurred when fire had eruptted in the ship's middle. After the men on board had been rescued, the fire was extinguished by firefighting vessels. According to a spokesman with the coast guard, Koji Takarada, the cause of the fire is unclear and is yet to be defined. It is known that at the time of the blast, crew members were working on the Shoko Maru's deck. The vessel had unloaded its crude oil cargo and was positioned still close off the Hyogo prefecture coast (450 km west of Tokyo). An official of the tanker's owner, Syoho Shipping, said:
"The ship unloaded crude oil at a port in Hyogo prefecture and the tanker was virtually empty when the accident occurred."
He has confirmed the fate of the Shoko Maru's captain was unknown.
"I heard that a crew member was using a grinder to remove paint and that seems to have triggered the blast, which we believe could have occurred when the remnants of the oil caught fire.
"It is a Japanese ship and belongs to our company. All the crew members are Japanese nationals. We have confirmed seven out of the eight are alive and one, believed to be the captain, is still missing," he added.
Shoko Maru (IMO number 9124861 and MMSI 431400494) is a 998-ton vessel built in 1995. Owner of the 80-meter vessel is Syoho Shipping, based in Hyroshima. Last position of Shoko Maru.