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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Personal Ties Credited in Sub Rescue

HONOLULU -- Submarine rescue specialists said that well-cultivated working relationships made possible the international effort to save a Russian mini-sub and its seven-man crew last month.

Gathering at a Waikiki hotel on Tuesday, some 50 rescue experts from 15 countries shared lessons from the early August mission to release a Russian mini-sub that had gotten caught in fishing net cables.

A British underwater robot cut through the cables and freed the Russian vessel as oxygen supplies were rapidly dwindling on board three days after the sub got entangled.

Commander Kent Van Horn, the head of the 30-person U.S. crew sent to help, said he was studying ways to cut down on the time his team spent unloading equipment from its transport plane so it could reach accident sites more quickly.

He said his crew had a "long list" of lessons they learned.

Overall, participants praised the global cooperation that saved the lives of the seven men aboard the AS-28 vessel called the Priz.

The British, U.S., and Japanese navies dispatched rescue crews to the scene in the Far East after Moscow called them for help.

Van Horn recounted how his crew gave the British some equipment at the airport on Kamchatka when they realized the British team would be able to get to the mini-sub first.

"It wasn't a competition between us," Van Horn said. "All that comes from the regular interaction with each other."

Van Horn spoke on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Submarine Conference, an annual meeting dedicated to swapping information on submarine rescues. It plays a similar role to the more established and extensive submarine rescue meetings run by NATO.

Russian Captain First Rank Anatoly Suvalov said his nation needed to strengthen its relations with other countries for submarine rescues. He added that personal ties among the Russian, British and American teams helped save his compatriots aboard the Priz.

"You have specialists that already know each other, which gives us the ability to provide more successful, quick work," Suvalov said through an interpreter.

Commander Jonty Powis of the British Navy said eventually the circle of cooperation might expand, as it had to Russia after 118 sailors died aboard the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000.

Russia was unable to reach the stranded sailors aboard the Kursk after it was rocked by explosions and sank during naval exercises in the Barents Sea. Russia had refused to accept foreign help for days in that incident.

"What the Kursk showed everybody was we were in a position to help, we could get there, and if they'd only opened up a little bit we might have saved some lives," Powis said.

"One might imagine that before very long the [Submarine Escape and Rescue] working group is opened up to North Korea and Iran. They operate submarines. If one was to sink, we'd offer to help them."

The last Asia Pacific Submarine Conference was held in Australia, but all of the four other meetings have been held in Hawaii. The location for the next conference has not been decided.