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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps now is considering hiring a private contractor to hoist a sunken amphibious assault vehicle from a reef off Camp Schwab’s coast.

The Corps is negotiating with contractors “to find the quickest solution for the recovery process,” officials stated Tuesday in a response to a query. The recovery operation is projected to cost about $170,000, they said.

The vessel sank June 9 in about 10 feet of water, after experiencing mechanical problems during “routine training,” Marine officials stated previously. The four crewmembers escaped with minor injuries.

Plans for using air-filled bladders to recover the AAV were considered, officials said, but were scrapped because of uncertainty about how the surrounding coral reef and ocean currents might affect the undertaking.

Environmental specialists from the Marine Corps have been working with the Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Bureau to do daily monitoring of the submerged vehicle’s effect on the environment.

“According to DFAB, there has been no impact on the aquatic life,” officials stated. “After the AAV has been removed, additional surveys will be conducted to determine if there has been any damage to the coral.”

The unit involved, which officials have declined to name, has not resumed AAV operations, but other units’ AAVs have returned to the water.

Yoritaka Hanashiro, executive director of the Okinawa Governor’s Office, filed a protest on June 30 with the Marine Corps headquarters on Okinawa against resuming training, said Reiji Fumoto, Governor’s Office counselor.

“We asked the Marine Corps to recover the sunken vehicle as early as possible,” he said. “If it stays under the water for prolonged time, it could cause various adverse impacts on the environment, such as fuel leakage.”

Fuel leaks have been “minimal,” Marine officials said, adding the Marines have “quickly responded and taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the environment.”

Fumoto said Okinawa’s government believes “it is the responsibility of the military to release to the public the cause of the accident and recover the sunken vehicle before resuming the training. For local residents, it is not acceptable to see training resumed while one of the vehicles is still sitting under the water.”

Marine officials said the cause of the sinking remains under investigation but the AAV, which costs from $2.2 million to $2.5 million, likely will be salvageable. They stated that if repairs can’t be made on Okinawa, it will be returned to the United States.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.


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