Rigging adjustment

U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- After the Navy successfully lifted Ehime Maru and pulled two messenger wires under the ship, it discovered the forward messenger wire needed to be adjusted.

The wires, which will be used to pull two massive plates under the ship so it can be lifted off the ocean floor, must be placed precisely to ensure Ehime Maru can safely be lifted from its 2,000-foot location.

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 the 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.

When the clouds of sediment had finally settled, a remotely operated vehicle discovered the forward wire was snagged around the middle of Ehime Maru. It needed to be under the ship’s pilot house.

The second wire appears to be placed where it needed to be under the ship’s engine room.

Rockwater 2 attempted to move the forward wire to its correct position without moving Ehime Maru but will have to lift the ship’s stern again. That event is scheduled for late today or early tomorrow.

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

The Navy is prepared in case diesel fuel is released. In accordance with the environmental assessment prepared earlier this year, a number of measures to protect the environment were in place before the recovery operation began in June.

A Coast Guard helicopter sent to the site this afternoon reported a sheen estimated to be less than two gallons of diesel fuel southwest of Rockwater 2. A Navy skimmer system was on-scene this morning, however diesel fuel is a light, refined petroleum product that evaporates within hours or days, lessening the chance that it would harm the environment. It also is readily and completely degraded by naturally occurring microbes, according to information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Because diesel fuel is so light and because of its low viscosity, it spreads quickly to a thin film when on water – it will not sink and accumulate on the sea floor. An amount as small as a gallon can create a sheen as big as football field.

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.

Media will be notified when the lifting plates are pulled under Ehime Maru 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.

A company contracted by the Navy recommended lifting the 750-metric ton Ehime Maru from where it lies about nine nautical miles south of Diamond Head and moving it while still submerged to a depth at which divers can reach it. The divers would then search the ship to recover the missing crewmembers and personal effects – a task that cannot now be accomplished due to the greater depth.

The operation is highly complex and poses a number of challenges. For example, an object the size of Ehime Maru has never been raised from 2,000 feet. And once in place at the shallower site, divers will have to navigate tight and damaged compartments. Not every space may be physically accessible and some spaces may not be safe for divers to enter. Safety is paramount throughout the recovery operation.

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Revised 8/30/01 at 5:35 p.m. (HST)