Hokkaido tour boat operator loses license after fatal accident

Japan's transport ministry has revoked the license of the operator of a tour boat that sank off Hokkaido, northern Japan, for not complying with sailing regulations and other violations.

The KAZU I sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula on April 23 with 26 people on board. Fourteen of them have been confirmed dead and 12 are still missing.

The Hokkaido District Transport Bureau revoked the license on Thursday, after finding several legal violations in a special audit of the tour boat operator, Shiretoko Pleasure Cruiser.

The bureau said this is the first case of a tour boat operator losing its license because of an accident.

The district bureau chief, Iwaki Hiroyuki, said in a statement that company president Katsurada Seiichi should take the punishment seriously. He said Katsurada should continue to cooperate with the search for the missing people and make sincere efforts to compensate the passengers' families.

The tour boat operator submitted a statement before a hearing on Tuesday. It said that it is wrong to lay the blame solely on the company, and the regulatory agency shares responsibility for the accident.