Tuesday, September 4, 2001

The USS Greeneville cruised past Orote Point last month
as it entered Apra Harbor in Guam. The sub returned to
the port last week for repairs after an accident off Saipan.

Sub’s move in stormy
weather a surprise,
harbor master says

He feels damage to the
USS Greeneville in Saipan
was avoidable

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The harbor master in Saipan said he was surprised that the skipper of the nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville tried to leave the narrow channel leading to the harbor during rough seas last week -- an action that ended up with the vessel scraping its hull and rudder.

Harbor Master Tony Cabrera said yesterday that seas in the 10,000-foot-long channel on the western part of Saipan were "very choppy" and "any ship out there would have had problems maneuvering."

He said it would have been wiser for Greeneville skipper, Cmdr. David Bogdan, to go all the way to the end of the channel rather than try to reverse or turn the sub around because of the storm.

Cabrera said the channel is 400 feet wide with a depth of 40 feet. The Greeneville is 362 feet long with a draft of 31 feet. Cabrera said the Greeneville probably touched the dredged side of the channel in trying to get out of the harbor.

Following the accident, the nuclear submarine went to Guam, located 130 miles south of Saipan, for repairs. The Aug. 27 incident, the second accident for the Greeneville this year, is being investigated by the Navy.

A tropical storm, which later turned into Typhoon Wutig, created strong winds and waves as high as 30 feet outside of the channel, Cabrera said.

Ferry service was canceled, and no barges were allowed to leave Saipan. There were no other ships in the channel at the time of the incident.

Because harbor tugs could not safely leave port, Cabrera said he sent a small 20-foot boat to escort the Greeneville into port. The high seas prevented the pilot from the small boat from boarding the Greeneville.

Communication between the Greeneville and the pilot boat also was poor, probably caused by the weather and waves, so the pilot was unable to tell Bogdan to proceed down the channel to a turning basin instead of attempting the maneuver that led to the accident.

An investigation by Submarine Group Seven in Yokosuka, Japan, is being held to determine the cause of the accident.

The Pacific Fleet Submarine Force said last week that Bogdan decided to reverse out of the channel when he thought the conditions were "extremely rough and unsafe" and ended up scraping the sub's rudder and a piece of navigation equipment.

The Greeneville, on its first six-month Western Pacific deployment since it rammed into the Japanese fisheries training vessel Ehime Maru on Feb. 9, was attempting to enter Saipan for a port visit.

The submarine left Pearl Harbor on Aug. 15 after completing $2 million in repairs stemming from the collision six months ago. Bogdan, a 1983 Naval Academy graduate, became captain of the Greeneville after Cmdr. Scott Waddle was relieved in April because of the Ehime Maru accident.

Nine men and boys aboard the Ehime Maru were killed. The Navy is trying to raise the vessel to recover any bodies entombed in the ship's hull. The 190-foot Ehime Maru rests in 2,000 feet of water nine miles south of Diamond Head.

Yesterday, the civilian diving support ship Rockwater 2 lifted the stern of the Ehime Maru for the fourth time to adjust one of two cables that snagged when they were pulled beneath the 830-ton vessel last week. The new rigging operation began at 2 a.m. yesterday.

The wires will be used to pull large metal lifting plates under the sunken wreck so the vessel can be raised 90 feet off the ocean bottom.

It will then be towed about 12.5 miles to shallow water off Honolulu Airport's reef runway where Japanese civilian and Navy divers will search the ship's compartments.

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