More damage to Port Royal


POSTED: Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The state wants the Navy to pay the cost of repairing the damage to the reef where the 9,600-ton guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal ran aground last month.

There also was damage to the Pearl Harbor-based Port Royal's sophisticated anti-missile radars and its missile launch tubes despite contrary statements by a Pacific Fleet admiral, according to a confidential Navy report.

A Pacific Fleet spokesman said yesterday there are no plans to release that report, which was obtained by the Navy Times, or comment on any ongoing investigation, which includes a damage assessment and cost to repair the warship.

The Navy Times reported that when the Port Royal ran aground on Feb. 5 and was stuck on a reef for nearly four days, it damaged not only its propeller blades, sonar dome and anchors, but also other parts of the ship.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said it plans to file an admiralty claim against the Navy to repair the damage the warship did to the reef a half-mile off Honolulu Airport's reef runway.

Also pending are possible fines by the state Health Department because the vessel dumped 7,000 gallons of waste water to prevent it from backing up and endangering the crew.

The Navy has yet to report on the fate of Capt. John Carroll, the skipper of the Port Royal who was relieved pending the outcome of the investigation, or any other sailor who was on the bridge at the time of the 7:30 p.m. mishap.

On Feb. 9, the day Port Royal was finally freed, Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told reporters that damage was limited to the hull. None of the sophisticated Aegis combat radar and missile systems were affected, he said then.

But the Navy's internal report said other damage occurred by the pounding surf while the warship was stuck on the reef, including the hatches on the cruiser's forward and aft launch tubes, which house missiles. The rolling of the ship also may have affected the ship's mast, which houses the cruiser's radar and other sensitive equipment used to track enemy ballistic missiles.

The Navy Times said the Navy might encounter problems trying to get “;new reduction gears,”; which turn the ship's drive shaft, because the Port Royal is the final Ticonderoga-class cruiser and contains the last reduction gears of its class.

Both the Navy and the state DLNR have declined to release photos of the reef damage, citing the ongoing investigation.

This week, divers will continue to map and photograph the extent of the damage and identify coral colonies that might be salvaged.

State and Navy divers have been reattaching live corals using quick-setting cement, as well as hauling nonsalvageable pieces out to deeper waters.

The depth where the divers are working ranges from 15 to 20 feet.

The Port Royal went aground on its first day of sea trials after a four-month, $18 million repair and renovation job in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. It took nearly four days, four tries and nine tugs and salvage ships to pull the ship free.

The grounding of the Port Royal and the loss of a sailor during a boat-lowering operation in the Middle East that same week prompted Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Naval Surface Forces commander, to order a safety stand-down on Feb. 10, requiring all ships under his command to conduct safety reviews.