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Sajo’s fishing boat sinking suspected as another Korean style accident

Sajo’s fishing boat sinking suspected as another Korean style accident

Posted December. 03, 2014 07:54,   


Sajo Industries’ 501 Oryong, a deep-see fishing boat with 60 crewmen including 11 Koreans, sank in the West Bering Sea in Russia on Monday. Due to bad weather and water temperature hovering at minus 10 degrees Celsius, the accident is feared to leave a number of causalities. The Seoul government is urged to do its best to rescue Korean and foreign fishermen who remain missing by closely cooperating with the Russian authority.

The accident happened as seawater unexpectedly flowed into the fisheries processing chamber amid bad weather while crewmen were putting Pollack catch into the boat, but fisheries stock blocked the drainage to cause the boat tilt. Sajo Industries, the boat’s owner, blamed bad weather for the sinking. However, we have multiple reasons to doubt whether only bad weather was the single cause of the accident, as the company claims. The West Bering Sea, where the accident occurred, is a site infamous for poor weather conditions in the deep-sea fishing industry. We cannot rule out the possibility of unreasonably aggressive conduct of fishing operations or breakdown of the boat due to aging.

There is a possibility that the boat failed to escape to a nearby port and continued fishing, as the volume of its target catch was increased 10,000 tons from 30,000 tons to 40,000 tons. Question also remains as to why order to evacuate the vessel was placed belatedly, even though there was nearly four hours of time from the moment when the boat started tilting and to the time when it completely sank. The company said, “The captain determines the timing for evacuation from the boat,” but families of missing crewmen raised suspicion that “The head office failed to place order to evacuate in a timely fashion.”

The 501 Oryong was built in Spain in 1978, and taken over by Sajo Industries in 2010. The boat had been operated jointly by the company and Russian partner, before being managed as a Korean boat from February this year. It is an aged vessel that is 16 years older than the Sewol ferry.

Korea Register of Shipping conducted safety inspection of the fishing boat in February this year, but considering that the agency was under fire for sloppy inspection of the Sewol, the agency is hardly trustworthy. Only when the government thoroughly identifies the cause of the sinking, and hold people responsible for the accident, then will the safety of deep-sea fishing industry be enhanced.