2002 Science, Technology and Environment

Richard C. Asher

Helped diffuse a diplomatic crisis with a US ally and kept the US Navy the world’s leader in safe diving practices.

Richard Asher has long been respected in the US Navy for his expertise in ocean engineering. However, when he used his skills to assist in the resolution of an international crisis, his leadership was made clear to the world.

When the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru tragically sank in an inadvertent collision with a US submarine in February 2001, Asher and his team of military and civilian personnel were called upon to coordinate numerous agencies in expeditiously recovering the ship before relations between the US and Japanese governments crumbled.

Drawing on the resources of approximately 40 contractors and subcontractors from the US, the Netherlands, Singapore and other points around the globe, Asher’s organization orchestrated a cohesive operation. Utilizing remotely operated vehicles, they not only located the ship but also retrieved detailed video of the damage, which was then used to assess the damage and raise the ship.

The diplomatic magnitude of the salvage team’s work on the Ehime Maru was exemplified by personal correspondence from the Japanese Prime Minister to the Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet. The Prime Minister thanked the US government for its perseverance in the successful recovery, even in the face of the September 11 tragedy.

Asher’s team has also worked to prevent maritime tragedies from occurring. They are leading the research, development and construction efforts for the next generation of submarine personnel rescue equipment. This new system will shorten response time and provide the ability to transfer stricken submariners under pressure.

Scuba enthusiasts may be impressed to know that the last word on safe diving also belongs to Asher and his ocean engineering team. His expertise and guidance led to the release of the first major overhaul of the US Navy Diving Manual in over a decade. This handbook has kept the US Navy the worldwide leader and information repository on safe diving practices.

A 26-year Navy veteran, Asher has served for the past twelve years as Deputy Director of Ocean Engineering and Supervisor of Diving and Salvage, Naval Sea Systems Command. His varied and distinguished career has led to significant international media attention and praise from congressional and US Navy leaders. Using his valuable skills to resolve demanding situations in salvage, diving, oil and hazardous spill abatement and underwater ship repair ranging from diplomatic breaches to operational difficulties, Asher has become a distinctive asset to US naval operations.