January 20, 2018 10:00:33 PM
PASCAGOULA -- Greeted by sailors and flag-waving residents, a U.S. Navy destroyer damaged in a June collision that killed seven sailors arrived Friday for two years of repairs at a Mississippi shipyard.
The transport vessel Transshelf sailed up the Pascagoula River on Friday morning carrying the USS Fitzgerald. The June 17 collision with a Philippine-flagged container ship off Japan caved in parts of the Fitzgerald above and below the waterline. Water gushed into berthing compartments, killing the sailors. Its hull was punctured twice more in November as it was loaded aboard the Transshelf.
The Navy said Friday that it will take several days for the Transshelf to unload the Fitzgerald, which will be repaired by the 11,600 employees of Ingalls Shipbuilding, a unit of Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls Industries.
"She's actually here and we're starting the long process of rebuilding her and getting her back to the fleet," said Cmdr. Garrett Miller, the ship's commanding officer.
The Fitzgerald's 58-member crew, including some who were aboard during the collision, will be based in Pascagoula for the next two years, overseeing the ship's repair and modernization.
Ingalls was chosen by the Navy to repair the ship in August and awarded an initial $63 million contract in December to rip out damaged areas. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in September that it could cost $600 million combined to repair the Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain, another destroyer that was damaged in August. The John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided near Singapore in August, killing 10 U.S. sailors.
It cost $250 million for 16 months of repairs for the USS Cole, a destroyer damaged by a bombing in Yemen in 2000. Repairs at Ingalls to the USS Stark, a frigate hit by Iraqi missiles in 1987, cost $90 million over 10 months.
The Navy says shipbuilders will have to repair or rebuild components including the ship's electronic warfare system, radar, switchboard, gas turbine generate and air conditioning system. The Navy says that it will use the opportunity to update the Fitzgerald, which had previously been scheduled for 2019. That will involve more work to the hull, mechanical and electrical systems, weapons and computers of the ship, which was built in 1995.
Work is expected to last into mid-2019, followed by months more of testing and trials.
The Navy announced Tuesday that it's seeking negligent homicide charges against four officers of the Fitzgerald at the time of the collision, including the then-commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson. That decision followed a series of investigations and reviews into the collisions involving the Fitzgerald and the John S. McCain.
Those reviews concluded that the incidents resulted from poor judgment, bad decision-making and widespread training and leadership failures by the commanders and crew who didn't quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies. The Navy also seeks charges against the commanding officer of the John S. McCain.
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