April 6, 2012 in Nation/World

Coast Guard cannons sink abandoned ship

Tsunami sent Japanese fishing vessel across Pacific
Mark Thiessen Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

The derelict Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-Un Maru, which drifted from Japan following last year’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, was intentionally sunk Thursday off the coast of Alaska.
(Full-size photo)

OVER THE GULF OF ALASKA – The long, lonely voyage of the Japanese ghost ship is over.

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter unleashed cannon fire on the abandoned 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending a journey that began when last year’s tsunami dislodged it and set it adrift across the Pacific Ocean.

It sank into waters more than 1,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Alaska, more than 150 miles from land.

The crew pummeled the ghost ship with high explosive ammunition and, soon after, the Ryou-Un Maru burst into flames, began to take on water and list, officials said.

A huge column of smoke could be seen over the gulf.

The Coast Guard warned mariners to stay away, and aviation authorities did the same for pilots. A Coast Guard C-130 plane crew monitored the operation.

In about four hours, the ship vanished into the water, said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow in Juneau.

Officials decided to sink the ship, rather than risk the chance of it running aground or endangering other vessels in the busy shipping lanes between North America and Asia.

The ship had no lights or communications system and its tank was able to carry more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Officials, however, didn’t know how much fuel, if any, was aboard.

“It’s less risky than it would be running into shore or running into (maritime) traffic,” Coast Guard spokesman Paul Webb said.

The ship was at Hokkaido, Japan, and destined for scrapping when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck the country in March 2011 triggered a tsunami.

The waves dislodged the vessel and set it adrift. In total, about 5 million tons of debris was swept out to sea.

The boat did not have any cargo aboard, Webb said.

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