Getting rusty on the seabed for years, wrecks of over 50 ships spoil the aquatic area. However, their lifting is a labor-consuming and expensive work, so nobody has put hands to that so far. But local businessmen do. For them, the sea bottom may really become a "gold mine".
There is a kind of a spring-cleaning in the Avacha Bay. Trawler Svetly is coming up from the water. The ship has been lying on the seabed for 1.5 years, and now one can hardly say this metal heap once was a large fishing ship. The rusty hull is covered by sea plants and barnacles.
Lifting of a sunken ship is a great challenge. Dozens of experts and heavy equipment are involved. At first, divers put slings under the vessel, and then crane rends the hull from the bottom during many hours. When the hull is on surface, water and remained fuel must be pumped out.
"About ten deep-well pumps were used for this purpose. As long as the ship was lightened, it surfaced by itself", says director of recycling company Andrei Pazenko. Currently, over 25,000 tons of metal is getting rusty in the bay. It is about 70 vessels. Divers who regularly dive there say a multistage underwater city has grown on the bottom of one of the world's largest bays through the two recent decades.
"Look, there's an old World-War-Two diesel submarine, and some other ships heaped on her. Sure, underwater life is in full swing there, but overall impression is not good", says diver Igor Vrzhesch.
Most of those vessels are military ships, former property of Navy, and fishing seiners wrecked in storms. In the recent years, poaching schooners under flags of African and Asian countries sink frequently as well. By the way, sometimes it is easier for poachers either to scuttle a ship or abandon her in the bay than to surrender at Russian frontiersmen, and then pay fines and redeem the ship.
One of the most notorious stories of this kind happened in 2007. Coast Guard towed schooner named Eri Christine to the port. Shipowner has not come into view since the ship's arrest. After a half-year detention, the Indonesian crew was deported, and the abandoned schooner remained in the port and sank after some time.
Rusty hulls of sunken ships spoil the bay. Salts of heavy metals like copper, cadmium, or mercury get into sea water. But this is not the only threat to marine flora and fauna.
"The most dangerous thing is bilge waters, oil residuals remained in fueling mains. It is fuel reserve in tanks, transfer and cargo mechanisms", points out Pavel Kiselev, inspector of the Federal Environment Supervision Service.
Juridically, that is shipowner who is responsible for recycling of overaged ships. However, owners of that junk are not so crazy about wreck lifting: it costs too much. But luckily, the situation is getting gradually better. Prices for metal scrap have grown, and its recycling became profitable. In Kamchatka, there are several private firms that buy vessels from insolvent companies. Backing up such entrepreneurs, Federal Environment Supervision Service considers it is quite possible to clean the Avacha Bay within the next 5-7 years.