Wednesday, January 17, 2007

U.S. Submarine Collides with Japanese Ship

U.S. Submarine Collides With Japanese Ship
TOKYO (Jan. 9) - A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine collided with a Japanese oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil supplies travel, officials said.

No one was hurt in the accident that happened Monday night in the 34-mile wide straits, which are bordered by Iran and Oman and serve as the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

Damage to the fast-attack USS Newport News submarine and the supertanker was light and there was no resulting spill of oil or leakage of nuclear fuel, officials from the U.S. Navy and the Japanese government said.

Both ships remained able to navigate, Navy officials said.

The bow of the submarine was traveling submerged when it hit the stern of the supertanker Mogamigawa as the vessels were passing through the Straits, causing minor damage to the Japanese vessel, the U.S. Navy and Japan's Foreign Ministry said. The Japanese government said it was informed of the crash by the Navy and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

The tanker, operated by Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., was able to continue to a nearby port in the United Arab Emirates, the statement said.

Commander Kevin Aandahl of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain confirmed there had been a crash and that there were no injuries aboard either ship. Aandahl said the submarine had surfaced and its crew was evaluating damage.

The Navy said the sub's nuclear propulsion plant was undamaged. The Newport News is based in Norfolk, Va., and is part of a U.S.-led multinational task force patrolling the Persian Gulf and nearby seas. It has a crew of 127.

The Mogamigawa was traveling from the Gulf to Singapore and was carrying a crew of eight Japanese and 16 Filipinos. It is expected to arrive in the port of Khor Fakkan later Tuesday, company spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

She said crew members reported a sudden large bang and shaking just before the collision, but no other details were immediately available.

The Japanese government has asked the U.S. side to investigate. Aandahl said a Navy investigation would begin shortly.

In February 2001, a U.S. Navy submarine rammed into a Japanese fishing vessel in waters off Hawaii, killing nine people. The American captain's delay in apologizing for the crash triggered protests by the victims' families.

U.S. naval vessels have been involved in previous collisions with commercial ships in the busy shipping lanes around the Persian Gulf. In September 2005, the U.S. nuclear submarine Philadelphia collided with a Turkish cargo ship in the Gulf, causing no injuries.

In July 2004, the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy collided with a dhow in the Gulf, leaving no survivors on the traditional Arab sailing boat. The Navy relieved the Kennedy's commander, Capt. Stephen B. Squires, after the incident.

Fleets of U.S. and allied navy vessels patrol the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and western Indian Ocean, attempting to block smuggling of weapons to Iraq and Somalia, nuclear components to Iran, as well as the movement of drug shipments and terrorists.

U.S. and coalition ships started patrolling the coast of Somalia in recent weeks in a bid to capture any al-Qaida suspects fleeing Ethiopia's December invasion.
Associated Press writers Hans Greimel in Tokyo and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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