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Ship that got stuck on reef almost ready to return to service


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POSTED: Thursday, July 30, 2009

The U.S. Navy is almost finished repairing a $1 billion cruiser that ran aground near Honolulu Airport in February.

The USS Port Royal remains in dry dock at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and is expected to return to service in early October, a Navy news release said. Repair costs will run close to $40 million.

Most repairs have been completed. The ship's rudders were reinstalled; its tank and underwater hull were mended.

Repairs were delayed by complications with the ship's sonar dome—the most heavily damaged part of the vessel—and a strut that supports the propulsion shaft.

In September the Navy will begin a three-week process to finish repainting the underwater hull. In that process, the ship will be floated, then docked in a different position to paint areas currently covered by supports.

Once repairs are complete, the Navy will test the warship at pier-side for several weeks and train the crew for proficiency.

On Feb. 5 the cruiser ran aground in 14 to 22 feet of water about half a mile from the airport. Nine tugboats and ships pulled the warship off the reef in a fourth attempt on Feb. 9.

Capt. John Carroll, the skipper, was relieved of command and assigned a desk job. In June he received nonjudicial punishment for dereliction of duty and improper hazarding of a vessel.

During the mishap, the warship dumped 7,000 gallons of waste water to prevent endangering the crew. The state Department of Health declined to fine the Navy, saying it didn't have jurisdiction over a Navy warship.

The 9,600-ton ship's grounding also heavily damaged coral reefs in the area. The Navy spent more than $7 million repairing reef damage. Contractors reattached about 5,400 coral colonies and removed 250 yards of rubble, the Navy said.

According to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, summer swells halted restoration of the reef site in May. Restoration work will continue this fall when ocean swells decrease in size.