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NEWS | Oct. 30, 2023

U.S. Navy Divers Complete Wreck Removal Operation in Micronesia During Pacific Partnership 2024

Mobile Diving and Salvage Company 1-8

MV Micro Dawn was one of six Japanese-built cargo vessels procured by the government of FSM under a Japanese grant aid scheme between 1976 and 1978. The vessels were used by the government for the Federated States of Micronesia to ferry personnel and cargo between the many outer islands of the country. Micro Dawn was built in 1978 in Kobe, Japan and had a gross tonnage of 869, and length overall of 184 feet.

During a typhoon in 2006, Micro Dawn capsized and sank on the north-facing pier of Weno Harbor in 20-30 feet of water. For 17-years, Micro Dawn fouled 200 feet of berthing space and prevented further expansion of the sole commercial port facility in Chuuk State.

In 2006, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia made a formal diplomatic request to the United States for assistance removing Micro Dawn from Weno Harbor. Due to the significant economic, safety, and environmental benefits to the country as well as the exceptional training value posed by the wreck removal, the US Navy was formally tasked to render assistance.

US Navy salvage forces first commenced work on Micro Dawn in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts were halted in 2020 after little progress.

Between 2020 and 2023, operational planners developed a new concept for the salvage operation which maximized training value by utilizing commercial salvage experts and equipment from SMIT Salvage and Singapore Salvage Engineering to provide training to the US Navy team.

During the operation the Navy divers employed salvage technologies common in commercial industry but new to the Navy, such as diamond wire saws, salvage chisels, and mechanical and hydraulic grabs.

L.t. Cmdr. Max Cutchen, Salvage Officer for 7th Fleet, said the operation offered an invaluable training experience for his team.

“Opportunities for U.S. Navy salvors to gain experience in large scale salvage operations are, thankfully, quite rare in peacetime," said Cutchen. "The same is not true for commercial salvage outfits. Micro Dawn provided an unparalleled opportunity for CTG 73.6 to work with industry to develop the critical skills they need in crisis and conflict.”

USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) departed on a 3300 nautical mile transit from Singapore to Chuuk towing a commercial crane-barge heavily laden with salvage equipment Aug. 30th, 2023.

Salvor arrived Sept. 28th, 2023, and the combined Navy and contractor salvage team went to work cutting, rigging, and relocating pieces of Micro Dawn to a disposal site designated by the government of Chuuk.

After thirty days, Micro Dawn had been completely dismantled and all remnants laid in their final resting place, deep in Truk Lagoon.

Over the course of the operation CTG 73.6 gained valuable experience in many skills including salvage rigging, crane barge operations, underwater cutting, mooring evolutions, and general seamanship.

“For better or worse, military salvage is now and always has been highly dependent on the commercial salvage industry" said Ensign Chris Greene, Mobile Diving and Salvage Company Commander. "The diverse nature of the Micro Dawn team reinforced the importance of Navy salvage forces maintaining their ability to work in tandem with their civilian and commercial counterparts.”

In the years ahead, storms of ever-increasing strength will continue to batter Pacific island nations and abandoned derelict vessels (ADV) will pose an enduring economic, environmental, and navigational hazard; the removal of stranded ADVs is often not commercially viable based on geography.

As was the case with Micro Dawn, some ADVs may offer opportunities to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to strategic partners while simultaneously providing an unmatched training opportunity for US Navy salvage forces.

“It was an absolute honor to work with this extraordinary team of salvors," said Master Chief Navy Diver Nelson Trevallion, Mobile Diving and Salvage Company's Master Diver. "The concerted effort of everyone involved led to a resounding success well ahead of the most optimistic projections. This was an immense achievement for the United States Navy’s diving and salvage community.”

CTG 73.6 is currently deployed to Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia with USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) and a commercial salvage team as part of Pacific Partnership 2024. Renowned as the United States Navy Seventh Fleet’s premier maritime emergency response and salvage force, CTG 73.6 exemplifies the U.S. Navy’s commitment to aiding communities in need and providing swift assistance during times of crisis.