The Japanese ghost ship that recently appeared off the coast of Canada has recently come under cannon fire from the U.S. Coast Guard. The 164-foot Ryou-un-Maru fishing vessel washed out into the Pacific Ocean after the 2011 tsunami hit Japan’s eastern shores, and the ship is now reported to have floated within 150 miles of the Gulf of Alaska coast. The Coast Guard is taking the dramatic measure in an effort to sink the vessel before it runs aground or endangers any other vessels in the area.

USS Preble, Tsunami Debris, Japan 2011, Pacific Ocean, Pacific Debris

According to the Associated Press, a Canadian Ship, the Bernice C, had claimed salvage rights to the vessel, but had been unable to tow the stricken ship. The Ryou-un-Maru was destined for scrap at the time of the tsunami, and as such contains no cargo though it does have the capacity to carry more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel. With no way to determine how much of that fuel is left on board, and with no functioning systems on the ship, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency made a joint decision to sink the vessel and allow the fuel to “evaporate on open water.”

A U.S. Coast Guard Spokesperson, Paul Webb, said the aim was to puncture holes in the vessel using cannon fire from several hundred feet away. With other ships warned to avoid the area and a Hercules HC-130 airplane monitoring overhead, the process is expected to take an hour to complete.

The ship’s appearance in the Gulf of Alaska signaled warnings that more debris from the 2011 disaster could yet reach North American shores. The AP reported that  in January half a dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms appeared at the top of Alaska’s panhandle, the first signs of the estimated 1.5 million tons of debris from the 2011 disaster believed to still be floating in the Pacific Ocean.

The earthquake and tsunami which hit the east coast of Japan last year caused a devastating loss to human life and continue to have a significant environmental impact as radiation levels remain high around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear pant and as debris such as the Ryou-un-Maru vessel remain in the Pacific Ocean. While potential fuel levels in the ship remain of concern, it should be noted that Alaskan State “health and environmental officials have said there’s little need to be worried that debris landing on Alaska shores will be contaminated by radiation,” reports the AP.

Via the Associated Press

Photos via Canadian Dept of National Defence and Flickr user dvidshub