US Coast Guard Sinks Japanese 'Ghost Ship'

In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a plume of smoke rises from the derelict Japanese ship Ryou-Un Maru after it was hit by canon fire by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in the Gulf of Alaska, April 5, 2012.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a plume of smoke rises from the derelict Japanese ship Ryou-Un Maru after it was hit by canon fire by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in the Gulf of Alaska, April 5, 2012.

The U.S. Coast Guard has sunk an abandoned Japanese fishing boat off the coast of Alaska, more than a year after a tsunami sent it drifting aimlessly across the Pacific Ocean.

The 50-meter long Ryou-Un Mara went down Thursday in the Gulf of Alaska, hours after a Coast Guard vessel started shooting at it, setting fire to the so-called "ghost ship," which had no lights, crew or communications system.

The Coast Guard decided to sink the Ryou-Un Mara because it posed a significant danger to ships sailing in the area.  Officials say sinking the ship poses no risk to the environment and that any fuel on board would be evaporated by now.

The sinking operation was delayed when a Canadian fishing boat expressed interest in salvaging the Japanese boat. The Canadian ship eventually determined it could not tow the crippled vessel.

The Ryou-Un Mara is the largest piece of debris to drift into North American waters after last year's tsunami caused by a devastating earthquake off the Japanese coast.


Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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by: Ken
April 06, 2012 7:34 AM
Wouldn't it be more valuable to us not to send all our precious metals to the bottom of the sea but to just take that boat and salvage the resources from it?

by: Chris
April 06, 2012 7:33 AM
If it had no fuel left on board, then why was it burning so furiously?

by: Jason Tweed
April 06, 2012 7:31 AM
Ted is right. Not all of the fuel will evaporate, but it will dissipate in deep water more quickly. It's a bigger hazard if it runs aground or worse, collides with a bigger ship. It's not actually a large environmental risk because the ship was already prepped for disassembly. It has very little fuel, and no cargo. The Coast Guard is doing the right thing. I've researched the problem. Ironically, sunken ships make great habitats in the long run. It will probably help the environment long-term.

by: Denny
April 06, 2012 7:31 AM
@Ted - Diesel fuel can and does evaporate. As long as it is not under pressure it will evaporate. The boat has been adrift and had near empty fuel tanks and thus it has had most of it's fuel evaporate. If any fuel were to leak it would be minamal and when it reached the service it would evaporate due to the small quanitites.

by: P
April 06, 2012 7:29 AM
Diesel fuel (and gasoline) does evaporate. It's not as fast as rubbing alcohol, but over a year, yeah it's likely gone or to the point where it doesn't matter. More fuel is spilled refueling ships in a day than what (if anything) was left on that ship.

by: Martin Vandeer
April 06, 2012 7:26 AM
Ted, do your homework before you post please. You only make yourself seem uneducated and spread falsehoods.

by: Wil
April 06, 2012 7:26 AM
Looks like they should have called in the real military to sink it.

by: Tim
April 06, 2012 7:24 AM
Give me a break Ted. One fishing boat sunk in an endless sea. More likely it will provide as an artificial reef for countless sea animals.

by: James
April 06, 2012 7:24 AM
@Ted: Poor grammar and spelling. Depending on the type of diesel fuel, it may have evaporated. Also rubbing alcohol doesn't boil until about 181 Fahrenheit.

I wonder if the Coast Guard or Canadians boarded the vessel to see how much fuel, if any was on board.

by: GREG
April 06, 2012 7:22 AM
I wonder if the coasties would be so magnanimous if my diesel-powered yacht sunk in it's slip. If I hadn't used it for a year could I argue the fuel had evaporated? I don't think so. I feel sure I would have a big fine and be responsible for the cost of cleanup.
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