Photo/Illutration The bow of the Kazu I pleasure boat in a photo taken by an unmanned submersible (Provided by 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters)

Japan’s transport ministry is moving toward revoking the license of the operator of a sightseeing boat that sank off the Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido in late April with 26 people aboard.

It would mark the stiffest administrative penalty ever imposed under the maritime transportation law and the first against a pleasure boat company involved in a maritime accident, sources said, adding that the process could begin as early as this coming week.

Ministry officials cited numerous examples of insufficient safety measures on the part of Shiretoko Pleasure Boat, operator of the Kazu I boat that sank in stormy weather April 23 during a coastal tour. Fourteen bodies have been recovered to date, and 12 people are still listed as missing.

Company representatives will be given an opportunity to explain how and why the tragedy occurred, and a final decision is expected as early as next month.

Among safety measures that Shiretoko Pleasure Boat was found to have flouted are a general rule to cancel any departure from port if there is any prospect of waves reaching heights of at least 1 meter.

Officials also cited the obligation of the company president, as supervisor of operations, to be in the office when a boat is out at sea and a requirement that the ship captain maintain regular contact with the office.

The company’s radio antenna was broken at the time and the Kazu I was not equipped with a satellite phone because it had also malfunctioned.

The skipper embarked on the trip relying on a mobile phone to stay in contact with the shore but was out of range most of the time during what was supposed to have been an outing lasting no more than three hours.