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Saturday, January 15, 2000



By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
The interisland cruise ship SS Independence is in dry dock at
Pearl Harbor Shipyard for more than two weeks of routine
hull and maintenance work. Seen here is the ship's bow.

Dry-docking of
cruise ship buoys
repair industry

$5 million is kept in the islands
by leasing Pearl Harbor
shipyard's Dry Dock 4

By Gregg K. Kakesako


PEARL Harbor Naval Shipyard's boss, Capt. Jeffrey Conners, described it as "just a shave and a haircut."

But for several hundred civilian repair workers and the ship repair industry itself, dry-docking the interisland cruise ship SS Independence at Pearl Harbor for more than two weeks of routine hull and maintenance work was a blessing.

Glenn Keohohou, who has worked at Honolulu Shipyard for more than a quarter-century as a ship fitter and wielder, said, "Something like this is really a boost to the economy, since without it some of us would have been forced to go to the mainland to find jobs."

John Ball, Honolulu Shipyard's chief executive officer, estimated that $5 million was kept in the islands by leasing Pearl Harbor's Dry Dock 4 to perform routine hull maintenance rather than sending the vessel to Portland, Ore.

He said about 700 local ship repair specialists and 26 businesses were employed cleaning and repainting the Independence's hull, renovating its staterooms and replacing the starboard shaft.

Because none of the private dry docks here are large enough to accommodate vessels as large as the 30,000-ton, 682-foot-long Independence, routine maintenance always had to be done on the mainland.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard gather beneath
the huge starboard propeller of the SS Independence.

Two years ago, when budget restrictions forced the Navy to cut back its private ship-repair contracts, the 34-member Hawaii Ship Repair Association -- which Ball also heads -- started to look for ways to keep its industry afloat.

Tom Carman, executive vice president of American Hawaii Cruises, said keeping the work in Hawaii will means its cruise ship Independence will be able to squeeze in one extra interisland steaming, adding $1.3 million to the state economy.

The Independence is scheduled to leave Pearl Harbor on Wednesday and be back in service before the end of next week.

Ball said the Navy here was paid $140,000 to lease Dry Dock 4 for two weeks.

Rear Adm. William Klemm, Pacific Fleet's deputy chief of staff in charge of maintenance, described the venture as "a beginning of a long-term partnership." Such a partnership with the private sector would help "defray the cost of running the shipyard," he said, and also help improve its efficiency.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Here is a view of the stern of the 30,000-ton, 682-foot-long Independence.

Carman said the reason local cruise ships weren't serviced in the islands was because "the confidence level to get everything done was questionable."

"And there also was the question of the availability of facilities" like Pearl Harbor, he said.

Ball added that with the Navy forced to downsize, the situation has drastically changed, and both sides were looking for ways to keep the industry alive.

Ball said there is the possibility that container ships could also be serviced at Pearl Harbor under a similar arrangement, saving both Matson and Sea-Land money.

Shipyard commander Conners said Pearl Harbor had no problem accommodating the Independence since Dry Dock 4, built in 1943, is big enough to handle 1,040-foot nuclear aircraft carriers.

Within the past few months, the ship repair industry in Hawaii has seen an upsurge in Navy contracts with $40 million programmed for this year, including maintenance work on several surface warships.

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