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Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Feasibility study on
raising ship to be released
early next month

By Janine Tully

Bullet Similar to '81 crash
Bullet Culture demands apology
Bullet 'Titanic,' canceled
Bullet Local remembrance
Bullet Raising ship studied

An official from the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Maritime Office says a feasibility study on salvaging the Japanese training ship Ehime Maru from 2,003 feet of ocean will be released early next month, after a team of experts returns to Japan.

The experts from Japan were taken yesterday to the site 10 miles south of Diamond Head where a U.S. submarine collided with the Ehime Maru on Feb. 9. They were able to view the sunken ship for the first time, via cameras on an unmanned submersible.

The group left Pearl Harbor at 7 a.m. and returned after 1:30 p.m. They addressed the media last night.

Hiroshi Sato, head of the salvage team, said it is theoretically possible to raise the ship based on analysis of data collected by the Navy. He wouldn't say how he thought the ship could be raised or the cost of such an operation. He said he felt he had gathered sufficient information on the ship to take back to Japan for further analysis.

Meanwhile in Japan, Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato said he received a letter from Adm. Dennis Blair, the commander of U.S. Pacific Forces, that said that the United States will decide by March 8 if it is technically feasible to salvage the Ehime Maru.

In news reports yesterday, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori suggested that should the U.S. fail to retrieve the boat, Japan might try to do it on its own.

"The Japanese government is committed enough that we would consider raising the vessel ourselves," Mori said in reports carried by Kyodo News agency and national broadcaster NHK.

Sato and other Japanese ocean specialists have been collecting information on the sunken fishing vessel since they arrived in Honolulu a few days ago. He said the group has been working closely with the U.S. Navy on ways to salvage the wreckage.

The team is expected to leave tomorrow.

John Craven, University of Hawaii-Manoa professor emeritus who has been involved with the Navy's deep submergence program, said raising the ship would be costly, but it can be done.

"It is feasible to raise the ship," Craven said. "It's a great expense, but the cost depends on how you raise it."

Craven estimated raising the Ehime Maru would cost between $10 million and $20 million.

The difficulty of the job depends on whether the goal is to raise the ship or any bodies, he said.

If the intent is to rescue bodies he recommended using manned submersibles that can go into the ship's cavities, like they did with the Titanic in salvaging objects. No divers can go down that deep, he said.

If the plan is to raise the ship only, Craven suggests raising the ship enough that it can be towed to shallow water. This can be done by installing pontoons around the ship and creating buoyancy, he said.

Star-Bulletin news services contributed to this report.

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