US coastguard sinks tsunami ghost ship
The United States coastguard has sunk a Japanese 'ghost ship' which had drifted uncrewed across the Pacific Ocean.
The 60-metre shrimping boat Ryou-Un Maru was set adrift from northern Japan after last year's tsunami, and floated 5,000 kilometres to the coast of Alaska.
"The coastguard utilised a high-powered cannon on board one of our patrol boats to puncture holes, to literally shoot holes into the fishing vessel and cause it to take on water and sink," spokesman Petty Officer David Mosely said.
Plans to sink the fuel-laden ship had earlier been put briefly on hold because a fishing vessel was nearby.
The captain of that vessel, the Bernice, had expressed an interest in salvaging the abandoned Japanese ship, but once on the scene the captain decided it was not safe to salvage or tow it.
The ship's Japanese owner also said it had no plans to salvage the vessel.
The Ryou-Un Maru lacked lights, making it a dark obstacle at night that threatened other ships in the area.
The coastguard says the Japanese boat goes down with thousands of litres of diesel in its tanks, but they say sinking it is the best way to minimise the environmental impact.
The boat was the largest piece of debris so far to wash up on the US coast after the March 11, 2011 tsunami.
Near Midway Atoll in the deep Pacific, a Russian ship spotted an intact 20-foot Japanese boat from Fukushima last year, along with debris such as a television and other household appliances, the University of Hawaii said.
Ocean researchers based in Hawaii are monitoring the debris from the tsunami, which they earlier predicted would reach western North America early next year.
There have been reports of Japanese bottles and other items washing ashore, but it is not clear if they were from the tsunami.
Earlier this month, Canada's western province of British Columbia and the western US states of Washington, Oregon and California signed an agreement to coordinate management of the tsunami debris when it reaches shore, and to return items of sentimental value to Japan.