No decision yet on leaking sunken tanker

More than a month has passed since the Russian oil tanker Nakhodka broke apart and sank in the Sea of Japan, and the government has yet to decide what to do with the vessel’s leaking stern section, which is lying on the bottom at a depth of 2,500 meters.

On Feb. 14, Transport Minister Makoto Koga announced that the ministry had established a team of 17 experts to look into ways to deal with the wreck. From photos taken earlier this month by the Dolphin 3K, an unmanned deep-sea probe, the government has confirmed that oil is leaking from a hatch on the deck located above the No. 4 tank on the starboard side.

The Dolphin 3K, which belongs to the Maritime Science and Technology Center, an affiliate of the Science and Technology Agency, is self-propelled and capable of diving to 3,300 meters. It carries high-resolution TV cameras that can shoot pictures from various angles.

A private salvager has pumped out 2,450 kiloliters of oil from the bow section. About 11,000 kiloliters is believed to remain in the sunken section and the effect of the leaking oil on the environment has yet to be studied, according to Transport Ministry officials.