Dive-team removes oil from Prinz Eugen
In what the US Navy describes as an unprecedented underwater operation, a salvage team has removed more than 850,000 litres of fuel oil from the famous World War Two shipwreck the Prinz Eugen, in Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The aim of the operation was to make the popular wreck-site off Enubuj Island safe for continued recreational diving, while safeguarding the atoll from the threat of a significant oil-spill. The danger of a severe weather event such as a typhoon fracturing the oil tanks aboard had been warned about for more than 40 years.
18 November 2018
The German heavy cruiser, that at one time engaged with the Bismarck the British warships HMS Hood and Prince of Wales, surrendered to British forces in 1945 and was later handed over to the USA.
After the war, loaded with oil and cargo, she was used to assess the survivability of warships during the Operation Crossroads atomic-bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.
The Prinz Eugen survived two nuclear explosions before being towed to Kwajalein Atoll, where she capsized and sank in December 1946.The bow of the 212m warship lies in around 33m of water.
Nearly two dozen US Navy divers from the Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) succeeded in retrieving most of the oil left on the wreck.
“There are no longer active leaks, with 95% of the potential oil volume having been removed,” reported Lt-Cmdr Tim Emge, officer-in-charge of salvage operations. “Any remaining oil is enclosed in a few internal tanks without leakage, and well protected with multiple barriers of ship construction.
“Of the 173 total oil tanks, the 159 external tanks have been pumped of all appreciable amount of oil, or were found empty.”
The operation was reported to have taken two years to research, plan and execute. An oil tanker was positioned directly above the wreck alongside the vessel USNS Salvor to collect the oil for recycling.