25 Mar 2012

Tsunami 'ghost ship' heads for Canadian coast

8:06 am on 25 March 2012

A coastal fishing vessel swept away by the Japanese tsunami a year ago has been spotted drifting towards the west coast of Canada.

An aircraft patrolling the seas off British Columbia saw the 15-metre vessel floating 275 kilometres from the Haida Gwaii islands.

No-one is believed to be on board the ship, registered in Hokkaido, and Canada's transport ministry is monitoring the vessel as a potential marine hazard for pollution or navigation.

It is believed to be the first large item from millions of tonnes of tsunami debris crossing the Pacific, the BBC reports.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii say the tsunami last March generated more than 25 million tonnes of debris, with up to eight million tonnes washed into the ocean.

Between one to two million tonnes is still floating, and much of it is expected to make landfall in North America in March 2014.

US senator Maria Cantwell, for Washington state, said the boat was expected to drift slowly south.

"On its current trajectory and speed, the vessel wouldn't make landfall for approximately 50 days," Senator Cantwell said in a statement.