Reef grief for Ribuuk Ae

The Ribuuk Ae in a file photo tied up with another vessel at Uliga Dock in Majuro. Photo: Karen Earnshaw.

The Ribuuk Ae field trip vessel is likely a total loss.
After running aground on the reef at Ujae Atoll shortly before New Year’s Eve, the vessel developed a large hole in the hull under the engine room. That allowed the engine room to flood, and by the time a Pacific International Inc. salvage team was given the go-ahead by RMI government authorities to attempt to pull the vessel off the reef late last week, the ship was so heavy with water that it could not be moved, according to PII Operations Manager Kenneth Kramer.

A PII team was on site soon after the grounding and had earlier expressed optimism about the possibility of pulling the vessel off the reef. The Ribuuk Ae has been a workhorse vessel for the RMI government for nearly 20 years, transporting passengers to and from the outer islands, and hauling copra tonnage to the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority mill in Majuro.

Wednesday this week, Kramer said his team “gave it a shot” but it was impossible to move the flooded vessel from the reef where it continues to sustain damage to its hull. He said the PII crew on site was prepared to attempt the rescue of the vessel over a week ago, but waited for the okay to be given from government authorities who were considering attempts to patch the hull. “By the time we were given the okay, the engine room was flooded,” he said. “We couldn’t move it.”

Kramer said it appeared the vessel “is a total loss at the moment,” adding that the engine is underwater with every high tide. “If we pulled it off now, the ship will immediately sink,” he said.

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