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Warship put through its paces


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POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

After seven months in dry dock and $40 million in repairs, the cruiser USS Port Royal is tied up at a Pearl Harbor pier undergoing testing before being certified for sea duty.

The $1 billion warship ran aground Feb. 5 in 14 to 22 feet of water about a half-mile from Honolulu Airport. Nine tugboats and ships pulled the ship off the reef on the fourth attempt Feb. 9.

Just before dusk on its first day back to sea after a four-month, $18 million overhaul, the ship was transferring crew members to a smaller boat when the grounding occurred.

The cruiser had been dry-docked at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard until yesterday, when it was towed to Pearl Harbor's Bravo piers for more work, testing and further training of its more than 300 sailors. The Navy said it will be “;several weeks”; before the ship is returned to “;full operational service.”;

Dry-dock crews from BAE Systems and the shipyard replaced the warship's sonar dome, reinstalled rudders and completed structural repairs to the ship's tanks, superstructure and underwater hull. The sonar dome, located under the bow, was the most heavily damaged part of the vessel. In addition, four sections of shafting were replaced, struts that support the propulsion shafts were realigned and the underwater hull was repainted blue.

Pearl Harbor Shipyard commander Capt. Greg R. Thomas said it was “;truly a team effort.”;

The Navy spent another $7 million to restore the reef, including dispatching scuba divers to help reattach more than 5,000 broken coral colonies in a 6- to 10-acre area. More than 250 cubic yards of rubble also was removed to prevent further damage to the reef. Southerly summer swells forced the Navy to halt the repair work, but there are plans to continue the operation this fall.

Capt. John Carroll, Port Royal's 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.

Three other officers and one sailor received nonjudicial punishment in the grounding. On Feb. 11, Capt. John T. Lauer III was named to replace Carroll.

During the mishap, the warship dumped 7,000 gallons of waste water. The state Department of Health declined to fine the Navy, saying it did not have jurisdiction over a Navy vessel.

Because of threatened legal action by the state, the Navy has never said what caused the grounding, although there were reports that the ship's navigational equipment was broken.