• Kyodo

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The submarine rescue vessel Chihaya sailed Friday morning for Hawaii to assist in the salvage of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fisheries training vessel that sank off Oahu Island in February in a collision with a surfacing U.S. submarine.

The 5,450-ton Chihaya, which has 130 members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force on board, embarked on its 10-day journey from the MSDF base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, at around 11 a.m.

It is headed for waters off Oahu island where the Ehime Maru rests on the seabed at a depth of some 600 meters.

Gen Nakatani, director general of the Defense Agency, said Wednesday that the Chihaya crew will assist the U.S. Navy in searching for and retrieving salvageable items from the sunken ship.

A salvage ship charted by the navy is currently preparing to raise the 499-ton Ehime Maru and move it to shallower water for the search-and-salvage operation.

The Chihaya crew includes 30 MSDF divers who will join navy divers in searching for human remains and personal effects inside the Ehime Maru.

Nine of the 35 Japanese crew members died after the Ehime Maru was accidentally rammed by the USS Greeneville about 14 km off Diamond Head on Feb. 9.

The sub was conducting a rapid surfacing maneuver for the benefit of a group of civilians on board.

After the Ehime Maru is moved to shallower waters, the Chihaya will deploy a remote-controlled submersible to comb the seabed for salvageable effects that were thrown overboard.

The retrieval submersible, which has four TV cameras to aid the search operation, is capable of lifting up to 100 kg.

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