Stern lift of Ehime Maru successful

U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- Navy efforts to lift the stern of Ehime Maru were successful. Rockwater 2 used its main linear winches and a sling under Ehime Maru’s stern to lift it off the bottom while cranes on Rockwater 2 pulled two 36mm messenger wires under the hull. Once the messenger wires were under the hull, the stern was lowered back to the bottom. The stern lift began shortly before 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29 and was completed by 1 a.m. the following day.

A Coast Guard helicopter sent to the site at first light reported a sheen estimated to be less than 1 gallon of diesel fuel southwest of Rockwater 2. A Navy skimmer system was dispatched, however diesel fuel is a light, refined petroleum product that evaporates within hours, lessening the chance that it would harm the environment.

There was no indication the stern lift caused any damage to Ehime Maru.

During the initial stages of the stern lift, the Navy had an open-ocean skimmer system on scene, and two helicopters patrolled for signs of any diesel fuel to direct the skimmers, if needed. There also were two Navy skimmers and a commercial skimmer system standing by. Additionally, the Navy has studied tides, currents and weather conditions in the area and monitors them constantly. Potential dispersal patterns from a fuel release have been modeled extensively by the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they predict that any fuel released would be carried out to sea.

The messenger wires will be used to pull lifting plates under Ehime Maru’s hull. Media will be notified when that event and other significant events occur. After the plates are in place, Rockwater 2 will return to port to retrieve additional equipment needed to lift Ehime Maru for the transport to the shallow-water recovery site. The lift and transport is scheduled to occur in mid-September.

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Revised 8/30/01 at 12:35 p.m. (HST)