US Department of Justice files lawsuit to arrest MOL cruise ship

Nippon Maru
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The US Department of Justice is suing Japanese shipping giant MOL for damages arising out of the connection of the company’s only cruise ship to the US Navy’s fuel pier in Apra, Guam.

On December 30, 2018, the cruise ship sailing under the Japanese flag cast off Nippon Maru left Apra with 372 passengers and 252 crew members bound for Saipan. Leaving port, she met the US Navy’s Delta Fuel Pier. However, no injuries or pollution were reported Nippon Maru suffered a large hole near her stern, above the waterline. The tank dock was also damaged.

During an investigation after the accident, the ship’s captain told the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) that when attempting to turn the ship in the turning basin, he had mistakenly moved the joystick that controlled it Nippon Marus motors and rudders to the full reverse position and left it there. He also reported drinking a can and a half of whiskey and soda 3-4 hours before the accident, along with a beer 2-3 hours after the accident.

The captain’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured approximately five hours after the accident at 0.071 g/dL, which is above company guidelines and US Coast Guard limits. NTSB determined that he likely consumed more alcohol than he reported and that it was likely that alcohol impairment contributed to the accident.

MOL and the US government have been negotiating to reach a settlement for the damage to the dock, but so far have been unsuccessful. On Friday, the US Department of Justice petitioned a federal court to order the arrest and sale Nippon Maru in a bid to secure $8 million to cover damage to the pier at Apra. The lawsuit alleges that MOL and its employees were negligent in allowing this to happen Nippon Maru hitting a stationary object, and it raises suspicions that the master was operating under the influence of alcohol.

The lawsuit calls for an arrest warrant for the US Marshals Nippon Marus Arrest, conviction and sale. Proceeds would be used to cover repairs at the fuel pier plus interest, costs and punitive damages.

Nippon Maru is currently anchored in the port of Chichijima, a Japanese offshore island some 900 nautical miles north of Guam. In the post-COVID era, her itinerary was mostly focused on Japanese coastal travel. Built in 1990, the ship is aging and MOL executives have announced plans to build two replacement ships and eventually retire Nippon Maru.

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