U.S. Navy Helps Thailand With Partial Salvage of Sunken Warship

The wreck of HTMS Sukhothai after 14 months in the Gulf of Thailand (Royal Thai Navy)

Published Feb 22, 2024 4:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy is helping the Royal Thai Navy to carry out a partial salvage and recovery operation for the wreck of the sunken corvette HTMS Sukhothai, which went down in foul weather in late 2022. 

On the night of December 18, 2022 the Sukhothai encountered strong winds and waves while operating about 20 miles off Bang Saphan, Thailand. As the vessel rolled in the waves, seawater entered a side exhaust pipe, affecting her engines and electrical equipment and causing a blackout. More water entered the vessel, causing her to list further over. Her pumps were unable to control the flooding, and response vessels could not transfer over salvage pumps because the surface conditions were too rough. At 0012 hours, the vessel capsized and sank.

76 survivors were rescued, including 18 who were hospitalized. 24 deceased crewmembers' bodies were recovered, and five remain missing at sea.

The Thai government initially pledged to raise the wreck, but the project proved to be too expensive. Instead, it has opted to recover further remains from the site and remove the ship's weapons, munitions and sensitive materials.  

In cooperation with the U.S. Navy, a Royal Thai Navy team has deployed to the wreck site aboard the U.S.-chartered dive support vessel Ocean Valor. The American salvage team mobilized equipment from Hawaii to Singapore to load out aboard Ocean Valor, then transited to the wreck site, all at no cost to the Thai government. 

The search team will be photographing the inside and outside of the vessel to help in investigating the casualty and searching for the remaining missing sailors from Sukhothai's crew. The search and documentation phase will take about five days. Following the completion of this initial mission, the dive team will transition to the recovery of Sukhothai's weapons, defusing or neutralizing of the ship's explosive munitions, and the disposal of hazardous materials. Divers will also try to recover items of historical or emotional significance from the site. This phase will take another 14 days.