Tsunami ‘ghost ship’ sinks after US coastguard opens fire
Japanese fishing vessel washed out to sea by 2011 tsunami is sunk off the coast of Alaska Link to this video
The US coastguard has machine-gunned and sunk a derelict and fuel-laden Japanese fishing vessel washed out to sea by the 2011 Japan tsunami.
The Ryou-Un Maru stayed afloat for several hours, listing and ablaze, after the coastguard opened fired with a 25mm machine gun as it drifted about 170 nautical miles south-west of the Alaskan town of Sitka. A few hours later the coastguard finished it off with artillery rounds.
It was believed to have been carrying more than 9,000 litres of diesel fuel.
Earlier plans to sink the Ryou-Un Maru were put on hold because a fishing vessel, the Bernice, was on the scene as its captain decided whether or not to attempt a salvage operation. he decided against it for safety reasons.
The ghost ship is among the 1.5 million tonnes of debris the Japanese government estimates was dragged out to sea by the tsunami.
“This boat, in this case, we know was at a particular pier, and before the tsunami it was there and after the tsunami it wasn’t,” said Ben Sherman, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Japanese owner did not want it back, as it had been destined for scrap, and experts from NOAA and other agencies determined that sinking the ship was the best way to manage the potentially dangerous fuel on board, Sherman said. “They anticipate that it’ll dissipate or evaporate very quickly,” he said.
Most of the tsunami debris expected to hit US coastlines is predicted to arrive in 2013 or later but some items have already washed ashore. In Alaska this has mostly been buoys and floats from oyster farms.
The Ryou-Un Maru had been drifting toward busy shipping lanes used by cargo vessels doing the Great Circle route between North America and Asia, said US coastguard Kip Wadlow.
The Great Circle arcs from the US west coast to east Asia, passing through the Aleutian Islands.
The ship was initially spotted by Canadian officials in waters off British Columbia, Wadlow said. it drifted into US waters on Saturday and the US coastguard began watching it closely.
The ship had no lights, making it a dangerous obstacle at night, Wadlow said.
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