Ghost ship lost in Japanese tsunami drifts to B.C. coast

BY MIKE HAGER
VANCOUVER SUN

After being flushed out to sea by last year’s massive tsunami and earthquake, a Japanese squid-fishing boat has drifted across the Pacific Ocean and was about 120 nautical miles off British Columbia’s north coast Friday evening.

The 150-foot ship was found drifting right-side-up about 140 nautical miles (260 km) from Cape Saint James, on the southern tip of Haida Gwaii.

“It’s been drifting across the Pacific for a year, so it’s pretty beat up,” said marine search coordinator Jeff Olsson of Victoria’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

A plane on a routine surveillance patrol for the fisheries and defence departments found the ship on the afternoon of March 20. The Canadian Coast Guard has issued a notice to all vessels that the ship is an obstruction to navigation. Transport Canada was still monitoring the boat Friday evening for marine pollution and interference with passing ships. The government body would not say whether the ship would be towed in or left to drift to shore on its own.

A boat that size would most likely be towed into Haida Gwaii, and could even be brought in by a commercial fishing ship said towing expert Paul Gray.

“The ghost ship is probably going to be pretty much worthless — nobody’s going to want to have anything to do with it because of the huge costs that are going to be incurred [towing it to shore],” said Gray, senior captain with the Vessel Assist towing company. “All that garbage, it’s going to hit Alaska, it’s going to hit B.C. and it’s going to hit Washington.

“That’s pretty much predicted and to be expected because of the currents.”

The vessel’s hull numbers were traced to the ship’s owner in Japan, who confirmed that nobody was believed to be on the ship when it was dragged out to sea, Olsson said.

The boat — the first large piece of post-tsunami debris to hit North America — was confirmed lost by Japanese officials. Attempts to hail the ship brought no response and Olsson told The Sun “we know nobody’s in danger.”

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