Alaska Ranger Investigation Enters Fifth Day of Testimony

DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska – The Marine Board of Investigation began Tuesday’s hearing by taking testimony from Makoto Oide, one of the technicians aboard the Alaska Ranger.

Oide, a Japanese national, spoke through an interpreter. He was an engine technician for about three years on the Alaska Ranger.

Oide testified that Satoshi Konno, the Japanese fish master, woke him up at 2:30 a.m. Konno told Oide told him there was a problem and to go check the rudder room. When Oide reached the rudder room the hatch was closed and he saw water leaking around the seal so he did not open it. He did hammer the hatch dogs closed to stop the leaking.

He closed the hatches to the fish chutes in the factory. They can be closed hydraulically but he was concerned that if power were lost the seal would not hold so he chose to close them manually.

Oide said he checked the engine room and there was water rising in the bilges. He checked the engine room four times before abandoning ship. Each time there was more water.

Oide drew a diagram for the board that depicted where a leak was in the bulkhead separating the rudder room and the engine room. There was a three to five centimeter weld missing around the refrigeration piping that passes through the bulkhead. On his fourth trip to the engine room the lights went out so he returned to the bridge to report to Konno.

On the bridge Oide donned his survival suit. It was a bit long in the arms and legs. Oide said he did see Konno fully don a survival suit. He went with Konno and the other Japanese crewmembers to the port side of the vessel to abandon ship.

He said Konno went first off the ship toward the life raft and directed him to follow. They held the painter line to the raft as they left the Alaska Ranger. Oide said he sustained some small cuts to the gloves of his suit from the line.

Once in the water Oide could hear Konno but could not see him. He made it to the life raft but Konno was not there. He thought perhaps he made it to another raft. Oide was the first witness to testify that Konno had his survival suit fully donned and that he abandoned ship.

Oide said there were fewer than 10,000 cases of fish in the number one and two freezer holds when the Alaska Ranger left Dutch Harbor to fish for mackerel. He is the first witness to testify that there was any fish onboard. Each case is said to weigh approximately 18 – 20 kilograms. The capacity of the number one and two freezer holds is 23,000 cases.

The second witness was Takamitsu Abe, also a Japanese national. Abe was the deck boatswain on board the Alaska Ranger. He instructed the crews how to sort the fish. He has been on the Alaska Ranger for four years. He has also served on trawlers in Japan. Abe has been commercial fishing for over 40 years.

Abe shares a room with Oide. Konno woke him up at the same time as Oide. He was with Oide throughout the duration of the incident. Oide and Abe made four trips to the engine room during the incident.

He confirmed what other witnesses have testified, that after power was lost the Alaska Ranger took a starboard list. He also said the ship began to make way astern which forced the life rafts toward the bow.

When Abe was passing through the factory to the engine room the second time the ship was listing to starboard. He saw water coming into the factory through the fish chute on the starboard side. He used a hammer to close the chute. There were several inches of water on the deck.

Konno abandoned ship first from their group. Oide went next. An American crewman followed and then Abe.

When Abe abandoned ship he used the crook of his right arm to slide down the line to the raft. He said he didn’t check the suit but he did get water in that arm and suspects the friction from the rope cut through the neoprene of the suit.

Abe also testified that there was fish in the number one and two freezer holds from the previous trip. Although he could not be certain how much fish there was, he said he had heard from the fish master that there were approximately 5,000 cases.

The board was scheduled to hear additional testimony this afternoon, beginning with David Morris.

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