The wreck of one of the famous ships of Her Majesty’s Naval Service - SS Sagaing which sank at the Trincomalee harbour during the World War II, is refloated after 75 years stay underwater by a team of divers of Sri Lanka Navy making a landmark turning point in the field of Diving and Salvage.
This 138 m long Passenger cum Cargo Ship launched in 24thDecember 1924 was hit by Japanese carrier air craft bomber attacks whilst at anchorage in Trincomalee harbour on 09th April 1942 and subsequently abandoned due to escalating fire onboard. On 24thAugust 1943, the damaged ship had been sunken to be used as a pier for Naval Ships.
Sri Lanka Navy resorted to refloat the wreck which was fully submerged 35 feet under the sea in order to make sea room for expanding berthing facilities in the harbour. The task of salvaging and removing the ship wreck was assigned to the Eastern Naval Command and under the guidance of former Commander of the Navy, Admiral Travis Sinniah. This arduous task was undertaken by the Eastern Command Diving Unit headed by the Command Diving Officer (E), Captain (CDO) Krishantha Athukorala on 11th September 2017.
Then a comprehensive salvage plan made by CDO (E) was launched by a team of divers supervised by CPO (DIV) ALNSS Liyanage through patching up all damages and strengthening up deteriorated ship’s structural parts by erecting an artificial ship side in to the sunken wreck for dewatering ship’s internal volume to recover lost buoyancy. After a series of dedicated endeavour made along a period of five months, on 22nd March the wreck started to ascent to the surface proving the professionalism and instinct of SLN Divers.
The operation was assisted by LCdr Sathishka Pathirana and LCdr Shiran Buddhika along with 98 diving sailors permanently deployed to the project. Timely support, by the Operations, Logistics, Engineering, Electrical, Shipwright and Medical Departments and the continuous advices received from Director General Operations Rear Admiral Piyal De Silva were highly affected in this successful endeavour. The entire proceedings of the wreck refloating effort were orchestrated under the able guidance of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Sirimevan Ranasinghe.
This project would not have been completed as scheduled without the unstinted support extended by the Tokyo Cement Company by way of providing a Crane Barge almost throughout the period with a full time operator.