Japanese cargo ship hit by missile off Ukraine

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A cargo ship owned by a Japanese company was hit by a missile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea on Friday, injuring a crew member, the West Japan Shipping Company said on Saturday, as that heavy fighting ensued after the Russian invasion of its former Soviet neighbour.

The Panama-registered freighter Namura Queen was damaged and one of the 20 Filipino crew members suffered a non-life-threatening shoulder injury, according to the firm based in Imabari, in the prefecture of Ehime.

The vessel is still operational and has headed for Turkey, where damage to the vessel will be assessed, the company said.

Ukrainian authorities said the missile was fired by Russian forces after their military invasion of Ukraine earlier this week.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Sunday that the Japanese government had urged Russia through diplomatic channels to ensure the safety of Japanese ships and citizens.

The incident happened near a port in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine, in waters ships had been warned to avoid. The Namura Queen was unaware of the initial warning and was hit by the missile as it attempted to exit the area.

The ship was to dock at the port and load grain.

The shipping company was alerted late Friday by the Philippine company that operates the ship that the vessel had sustained missile damage.

The impact of Russia’s current military assault on Ukraine on one of its ships has sent the Japanese firm’s staff scrambling for information.

An official from a group company linked to the company who spoke to reporters said he was relieved to learn that the lives of all the crew members were not in danger.

“We would like to move them to a safe place as soon as possible,” he said, adding that he hoped tensions in Ukraine would ease as soon as possible so the ships could transport goods safely.

A total of three non-military vessels have been hit since the start of the invasion.

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