Crowley Marine Services
has successfully concluded work as prime contractor for the U.S. Navy’s Ehime Maru recovery and relocation operation this week with placement of the ship at its final resting site approximately 12 miles off the island of Oahu in Hawaii in more that 6,000 ft. of water. The Navy contracted with Crowley to design, engineer and execute the plan to lift the Ehime Maru from the shallow water recovery site, transport it to deepwater and lower it to the ocean floor.
The Ehime Maru sank in 2,00 ft. of water on February 9, when it was struck by the USS Greeneville, a Navy submarine practicing an emergency-surfacing maneuver off Diamond Head. The Dutch recovery company Smit-Tak raised the Ehime Maru from its original resting place and transported it to the shallow water dive site about a mile south of Honolulu International Airport last month. Crowley provided transportation of critical components needed during Phase I of the salvage operation for Smit-Tak, and took over as the prime contractor for Phase II at the shallow water recovery site.
There, in about 115 ft. of water, Navy divers searched the vessel for remains of nine people who perished in the accident. Eight bodies were recovered.
During this period, Crowley supported the Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDS U) with the recovery and environmental clean-up operations of the Ehime Maru. Divers used Crowley’s logistics support barge CMC 450-10 for accommodations as well as a dive platform.
Crowley lifted the vessel from the shallow water recovery site and suspended it under the CMC 450-10 for the 12-nautical-mile journey to its final resting-place. The next day, representatives of three of the crewmembers’ families took part in a ceremony aboard the deck of the Japanese submarine rescue ship JDS Chihaya and watched nearby as Crowley lowered the Ehime Maru 6,000 ft. to the ocean floor.
“The Crowley crews stood by in respect as the ceremony aboard the JDS Chihaya took place and as we lowered the Ehime Maru to her final resting place, said Crowley project manager Todd Busch.
The ceremony brought to a close the unprecedented 10-month multi-million-dollar search and recovery effort, which required expert maritime recovery techniques on the part of the Navy, Crowley and Smit-Tak. The operation marks the first time that a vessel of the Ehime Maru’s size has ever been recovered from water so deep. The Navy has recovered aircraft and other items from depths far deeper than 2,000 ft, but this was the first time an object with the mass of Ehime Maru was recovered intact from such a depth.
Busch and Mike Rampolla, operations manager, have overseen the Crowley team working on the project. Approximately 36 Crowley personnel were involved in execution of the project, along with more than 15 subcontractors and vendor under contract with Crowley.