Three crew members from the Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine Soryu suffered minor injuries, and pictures from the Japanese Coast Guard showed it sustained damage to its fairwater planes, the winglike structures on its conning tower.
The Soryu, commissioned in 2009, is the first in its class of Japanese diesel electric-powered submarines. It displaces about 3,000 tons and has a crew of around 65.
The Defense Ministry said communications equipment on the sub was also damaged, although it was still able to operate.
“Soryu scraped the hull of the vessel as it was surfacing. It is extremely regrettable the MSDF submarine has collided with a commercial ship,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said.
The accident occurred off the main island of Shikoku in southern Japan, the Defense Ministry said.
The commercial ship reported no damage, Coast Guard officials added. Japanese media reported the ship may have been the Ocean Artemis, a Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier.
Bradley Martin, a RAND Corp analyst and former US Navy captain who analyzed images of the damage, said the impact would have restricted the submarine’s capabilities.
“I wouldn’t call the damage ‘minor.’ The submarine can’t dive and can’t communicate,” Martin said in an email to CNN.