US coast guards in Alaska have sunk an abandoned and crewless Japanese ship that had spent more than a year adrift on the Pacific Ocean since the 2011 Tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.
The crew of a coast guard vessel used high explosive ammunition to scuttle the Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending a journey that began when last year's tsunami set it adrift.
The ship caught fire before quickly sinking into waters more than 300 metres deep in the Gulf of Alaska, about 240 kilometres from land, having been deemed a danger to other ships.
"It's less risky than it would be running into shore or running into (maritime) traffic."
- Paul Webb, Coast Guard spokesman
A huge column of smoke could be seen over the gulf as a coast guard cargo plane sent to observe the sinking, dropped a buoy to monitor for any possible pollution from the ship.
US maritime and environmental officials decided to sink the ship rather than risk the chance of it running aground or endangering other vessels in the busy shipping lanes between North America and Asia.
"It's less risky than it would be running into shore or running into (maritime) traffic," said coast guard spokesman Paul Webb.
The ship, which had been destined from scrapping on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, was among about 5 million tons of debris swept out to sea by the tsunami. In the year since the tsunami, debris from Japan has washed up on shores across the Pacific.
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The Ryou-Un Maru was first spotted off the coast of Canadian British Columbia on 23 March and a Canadian fishing vessel, claimed salvage rights over the ghost ship in international waters.
But a Canadian official later said that the Bernice C had been unable to tow the so-called "ghost ship". Its owner had said he had no plans to recover the vessel.