Video: US Coast Guard sinks Japanese tsunami 'ghost ship'


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The Independent Online

It was cast adrift last year by the Japanese tsunami and has since made a long lonely journey across the Pacific, but today the Japanese ghost ship ‘Ryou-Un Maru’ finally rests in a watery grave after being unceremoniously sunk by the US coastguard.

The 164-foot ghost ship was pummeled with high explosive ammunition by a US coast guard cutter and burst into flames before taking on water.

The coast guard first fired with 25 mm shells, then a few hours later with ammunition twice that size.

The ship took around four hours to sink, doing so in waters of more than 6,000 feet, around 180 miles west of the southeast Alaska coast.

The coast guard warned other mariners to stay clear of the area, and a large plume of smoke could be seen over the gulf.

The coast guard had earlier said that they would postpone the scuttling of the 'Ryou-Un Maru' because a Canadian fishing boat had claimed salvage rights.

The fishing boat had, however, been unable to tow the crewless Japanese ship and the decision was taken to sink the vessel.

Officials decided that sinking the ship was the safest option rather than risk the chance of it running aground or endangering other boats in the busy shipping lane.

The boat had no lights or power and was drifting at around 1km an hour in the shipping lane that separates US and Canadian waters.

"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 able to carry 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but officials had no way of knowing how much fuel was left on board.

'Ryou-Un Maru' was destined to be scrapped and was in Hokkaido, Japan, when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck in March of last year dislodging and setting it adrift.

In the year since the tsunami,  much of the debris from Japan has washed up on shores across the Pacific.