The US Coast Guard is to sink the Japanese “ghost ship” cast adrift by last year’s massive tsunami, and which is now nearing the shores of Alaska.
The deserted ship, which is more than 60 meters long, poses a significant risk to marine traffic as it drifts through shipping lanes and at some point might interfere with other ships.
The Coast Guard has deployed the 110-foot CG Cutter Anacapa, which will try to sink the Japanese trawler Ryou-Un Maru using onboard 25-mm cannon.
“Our cutters are armed and this vessel has got two different types of chain-gun systems onboard and the intention is to utilize one of those systems to strategically put holes in the hull of the ship to cause it to sink,” USCG Petty Officer David Mosley said.
By Thursday morning, Ryou-Un Maru was about 170 miles (about 300 kilometers) south-west of Sitka, Alaska, and it is continuing to travel at about one mile per hour.
The location of the stray ship is known as a Coast Guard aircraft dropped a self-locating data marker buoy on order to maintain a constant, real-time, position on the vessel.
But before sinking the “ghost ship” Anacapa’s crew needs to assess its condition.
There have been concerns that the sinking operation may cause serious environmental pollution as the Japanese ship has as much as 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board. However, both the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency guarantee that any oil that leaks out of the ship will be broken up and dispersed by the wind, waves and weather before it reaches the shore.
As the weather and sea conditions could affect the timing of the operation, no particular date has been established.
Ryou-Un Maru has been drifting from Hokkaido, Japan, since it was cast adrift by the tsunami caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the country last year. About 5 million tons of debris was swept into the ocean by the natural disaster.