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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Lifting of Ehime Maru bow set for next week

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Weather permitting, salvage engineers expect to lift the bow of the Ehime Maru out of a hole on the bottom of the ocean and have the 830-ton ship in position by Oct. 6 so it can be moved to shallow water, Navy officials said yesterday.

There is no scheduled date for moving the Japanese fisheries training ship to shallow water, however. The Navy hopes to do that by the mid-October.

Rigging the ship has presented problems for the salvage team since work began in early August and prompted engineers to revise their plans several times, including yesterday. Lifting the bow was never part of their original plan but became necessary when other rigging efforts buried the bow into the sea floor.

Officials at the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor yesterday said the Navy now hopes to lift the bow by forming a sling around the front of the ship by threading a cable through the hawsepipes of the Ehime Maru. The hawsepipes are the holes for the ship's anchor chains.

The plan calls for engineers aboard the heavy-lift vessel Rockwater 2 to hoist Ehime Maru twice: out of the hole and over to a solid part of the sea floor and then up to allow the placement of key rigging cables. If both those lifts can be done, the Navy will proceed with its plan to move the Ehime Maru.

But the Navy yesterday also reiterated in a separate statement from Pearl Harbor that the ambitious project, which has cost about $60 million to date, has no fixed deadlines.

"As we have stated before, this is not a schedule-driven operation," Navy officials said. "Weather permitting, by the end of next week we should have a clearer picture of our ability to lift Ehime Maru and move her to the shallow-water site to start the dive operations."

The Navy wants to move the Ehime Maru, which lies in 2,000 feet of water nine miles south of Diamond Head, to 115 feet of water so divers can search the ship for the remains of nine people who were killed when it sank Feb. 9. The Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries training vessel, collided with the submarine USS Greeneville during a surfacing drill.

Once engineers have finished rigging the Ehime Maru, including the placement of the second of two lifting straps that will hoist it for the move, Rockwater 2 will return to Honolulu Harbor to retrieve additional lifting equipment, the Navy said.

On Monday, Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the Pacific Fleet, told U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai'i, that the Navy should know in a week to 10 days whether engineers can move the Ehime Maru.

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.