In a remarkable achievement that required nearly five years of planning, Fugro has played a vital role in locating the wreckage of the Montevideo Maru, one of the worst international maritime disasters in history.
Collaborating closely with the Silentworld Foundation and the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, and with support from Australia’s Department of Defence, Fugro applied its unparalleled expertise in deepwater hydrography and oceanography to successfully locate the sunken Japanese transport ship at a depth of over 4,000 metres off the coast of the Philippines.
The Montevideo Maru was carrying approximately 1,060 prisoners of war 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, Solomon Islands, Sweden and the US.
Sonar-equipped AUV identifies wreck
On 6 April 2023, 110 kilometres north-west of Luzon in the Philippines, the Fugro team began their search onboard the Fugro Equator, one of the world’s most advanced and well-equipped hydrographic survey vessels. Using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with an in-built sonar, the team recorded a positive sighting of the wreckage after only 12 days. Verification of the wreckage was subsequently confirmed by expert analysis from the project team, which included maritime archaeologists, conservators, operations and research specialists and ex-naval officers.
“The discovery of the Montevideo Maru closes a tragic chapter in international military and maritime history”, said John Mullen, director of the Silentworld Foundation. “Today, by finding the vessel, we hope to provide closure to the numerous 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.”
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. At Fugro, we’re using our hydrographic and oceanographic solutions to contribute to relief efforts and live up to our purpose of creating a safe and liveable world.”