The U.S. Navy, in partnership with the Army and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, have started the recovery of oil from the overturned World War II German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in the Kwajalein Atoll.
These recovery efforts will ensure mission capability of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, which is located on Kwajalein, while also protecting the environment within the atoll.
The Prinz Eugen was transferred to the U. S. Navy as a war prize from the British Royal Navy after the war, and in 1946, it was loaded with oil and cargo and used to test the survivability of warships during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.
During the test, the cruise withstood the initial blast but sustained heavy damage. Five months later, however, she capsized and sank in Kwajalein Lagoon, approximately 3.6 miles from Kwajalein.
The wreck contained about 2,767 metric tons of oil when it sank, and an assessment of the wreckage has shown that there remains a high risk of a spill of more than 1,000 metric tons.
A U.S. Navy report on the oil spill risk conducted in 1974 recommended that oil be removed from the wreck within 30 years, but Ownership of the wreckage was eventually transferred to the Republic of Marshall Islands in 1986.
The oil removal operation is being performed by Naval Sea Systems Command, Office of the Supervisor of Salvage engineers and is expected to last until the end of October.