'Terrible maritime chapter' closes as Fugro locates WW2 ship 81 years after sinking

‘Terrible maritime chapter’ closes as Fugro locates 80-year-old WW2 shipwreck

Fugro has taken part in a mission to locate the wreck of a World War II ship 81 years after sinking, reported as one of the worst international maritime disasters in history.

Image courtesy of Silentworld Foundation

Fugro started the search for the Montevideo Maru transport ship on 6 April onboard the hydrographic survey vessel Fugro Equator.

Deploying an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an in-built sonar, a positive sighting of the Japanese ship was recorded 12 days later at a depth of more than 4,000 meters off the coast of the Philippines.

Verification of the wreck came a few days later from the project team, which comprised maritime archaeologists, conservators, operations and research specialists, and ex-naval officers.

The Montevideo Maru was carrying approximately 1,060 war prisoners and civilians when it was sunk by an American submarine in 1942 during World War II.

The tragedy resulted in fatalities from at least 14 countries, including Australia, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Japan, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, the Solomon Islands, Sweden and the U.S.

Mark Heine, CEO of Fugro, said: “This maritime tragedy involved many countries and families, and all paid a terrible price. I’m proud that our skills and technology can help find resolutions to historical projects such as this and, in this way, make a real difference to people’s lives.“

Fugro worked in partnership with the Silentworld Foundation and the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, with support from Australia’s Department of Defence, to carry out the mission said to have taken nearly five years of planning.

“The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a terrible chapter in international military and maritime history,” said John Mullen, Director of the Silentworld Foundation.

“Today, by finding the vessel, we hope to bring closure to the many families devastated by this terrible disaster. I would like to express my gratitude to all of the dedicated Silentworld team involved in this expedition, to the outstanding Fugro crew and technical team onboard the Fugro Equator, and to the Australian Department of Defence for their unwavering support.”