What Does It Take to Sink a Ship, Illustrated

A little over a year ago, I published a post entitled “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship.” It has proven perhaps my most widely read post. The recent sinking of the Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-Un Maru beautifully illustrates the point that ships can be very hard to sink by gun fire.

120405-G-ZZ999-The sinking of the Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-un Maru

  • Title: GULF OF ALASKA – The Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-Un Maru
  • Summary: GULF OF ALASKA – The Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-Un Maru, shows significant signs of damage after the Coast Guard Cutter Anancapa fired explosive ammunition into it 180 miles west of the Southeast Alaskan coast April 5, 2012.

Reportedly the USCGC Anacapa began the operation at 13:00 and the Ryou-Un Maru sank at 18:15. It appears that the F/V may have been hit 100 times by explosive 25mm projectiles. With no crew aboard to do damage control and probably with no real measures taken to ensure water tight doors were closed, it stayed afloat for over five hours and ultimately the Anacapa resorted to pumping water into the vessel to sink it.

120405-G-RS249-005-USCG responds to Japanese vessel in Gulf of Alaska

  • Title: 120405-G-RS249-005-USCG responds to Japanese vessel in Gulf of Alaska
  • Summary: GULF OF ALASKA – The Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew douses the adrift Japanese vessel with water after a gunnery exercise 180 miles west of the Southeast Alaskan coast April 5, 2012. The crew was successful and sank the vessel at 6:15 p.m. in 6,000 feet

This was a very small ship, probably less than 500 tons, the implications for our ability to stop a medium to large vessel with a determined crew on board, bent on using the vessel for a terrorist act in an American port should be obvious. With even crude and unsophisticated measures to protect vital machinery and control functions, a ship can resist a great deal of gunfire and continue to its objective.

Late Addition–Video of the sinking added 25 Dec. 2012

Maritime Suicide Attack Plan Thwarted

Algerian authorities have arrested three alleged la-Qaeda terrorists who were reportedly planning on using a vessel loaded with explosive to attack American or European shipping in the Mediterranean.

This follows the pattern of an earlier attack on the Japanese tanker M. Star on July 28, 2010 and the attacks on the French tanker Limburg in 2002 and the Destroyer USS Cole in 2000.


Group with Links to Al Qaeda Claims M.Star Was Suicide Attack

CNN is reporting that the attack on the Very Large Crude Carrier M. Star, discussed earlier, is now being claimed by a group with links to al Qaeda. Reportedly web sites have a picture of the man who reportedly carried out the attack.

Quoting from the CNN report:


The group said the attack was intended to “strike an economic blow to the infidels.”

CNN was not immediately able to authenticate the claim.

The group, said to be inspired by al Qaeda, is believed to be behind several attacks in the Middle East, including the October 2004 attack on a hotel and nearby camp sites in Egypt that killed more than three dozen people.

The statement from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades said the attack on the tanker was the “conquest of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman” — a reference to the imprisoned blind cleric who inspired the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

“In a blessed episode of our Jihad in the name of God and in order to weaken the global infidel network, a battalion from our Jihadi brethrens managed to carry out an operation in order to strike an economic blow to the infidels,” the statement said.

“After midnight on last Wednesday, the hero, the martyrdom seeker Ayoub Tayshan, blew himself up in the Japanese tanker M. Star in the Strait of Hormuz between the United Arab Emirates and Oman causing damages, that were reported all over the international media outlets. This heroic operation will have a major effect on the global economy and the oil prices.”


I’m tempted to yawn, but if they keep practicing, they may get better at this. Still it’s hard to keep experienced crews.

The Mumbai Terrorist Attack–additional information

Here is a bit more information about how the Mumbai terrorist attack developed, provided by UK based Warship magazine. That the boat carrying the terrorists was boarded and the boarding officers captured and killed without alerting the authorities should reaffirm the importance of supporting and keeping track of our people. Hopefully this would not have happened to a USCG team.