Update 2: Divers Locate Missing Captain

Update:  The Shoko Maru has reportedly sunk due to damages sustained. Akihiro Komura, a spokesperson from the vessel owner Syoho Shipping Co. was quoted by the AFP as saying, ““I heard that a crew member was using a grinder to remove paint and that seems to have triggered the blast, which we believe could have occurred when the remnants of the oil caught fire.

“It is a Japanese ship and belongs to our company. All the crew members are Japanese nationals. We have confirmed seven out of the eight are alive and one, believed to be the captain, is still missing.”

Four crewmembers are reported to have sustained serious burns in the explosion.

Earlier:

Smoke raises from the fuel tanker Shoko Maru after it exploded off the coast of Himeji, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 29, 2014. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo

Smoke raises from the fuel tanker Shoko Maru after it exploded off the coast of Himeji, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 29, 2014. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo

May 29 (Bloomberg) — An oil tanker ship exploded off the coast of western Japan today after delivering its cargo, injuring four crew members seriously and leaving one missing.

The 998-ton Shoko Maru burst into flames while being cleaned off the coast of Hyogo prefecture at about 9:25 a.m., a spokeswoman for Syoho Shipping Co. said by telephone. The woman asked that her name not be used, saying she wasn’t authorized by the closely held company to speak on the matter.

Four crew members suffered burns over their bodies, three were unharmed and the Japan Coast Guard is searching for the missing captain, Yoshinobu Saito, a spokesman for the organization said by telephone in Tokyo. The country’s transport ministry has sent three people to probe the incident aboard the 81-meter (266-foot) ship, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Film on public broadcaster NHK’s website showed the listing tanker billowing smoke while being doused by several fireboats. The fire has since been put out, the Japan Coast Guard’s Saito said.

Smoke rises from the 998-tonne fuel tanker Shoko Maru after it exploded off the coast of Himeji, western Japan, May 29, 2014. REUTERS/5th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters

Smoke rises from the 998-tonne fuel tanker Shoko Maru after it exploded off the coast of Himeji, western Japan, May 29, 2014. REUTERS/5th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters

The explosion follows the sinking of a Panama-registered cargo ship off the coast of Japan in March, and the capsizing of the Sewol ferry off South Korea that left more than 300 people dead or missing last month.

Syoho Shipping is based in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan.

The 998-ton Shoyo Maru was built in 1995 and is chartered by Asahi Tanker Co., according to Syoho Shipping's website. File photo courtesy Syoho Shipping

The 998-ton Shoyo Maru was built in 1995 and is chartered by Asahi Tanker Co., according to Syoho Shipping’s website. File photo courtesy Syoho Shipping

–With assistance from Maiko Takahashi in Tokyo.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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