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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 12, 2009

Navy not open on grounding

By William Cole
Advertiser Columnist

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U.S. Pacific Fleet hasn't exactly been forthcoming with information about the grounding of the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal on Feb. 5 off Honolulu airport.

E-mailed questions (the way the military prefers) from The Advertiser have received short shrift or have not been answered at all by the Makalapa command.

Newspapers and television stations serve as the main conduit for news for the people of Hawai'i, and when a $1 billion warship lands on a reef for 3 1/2 days after receiving $18 million in refurbishment, and then needs $25 million to $40 million more in repairs, there are going to be questions.

All of those dollar amounts are taxpayer funded, of course.

By way of history, the responsiveness of the Navy in this case stands in contrast to that of a far more serious event, the 2001 surfacing of the submarine USS Greeneville into the Japanese fishing training vessel Ehime Maru, 10 miles off Diamond Head.

Nine men and boys on the Ehime Maru were killed and the ship sank. The Navy's Pacific Fleet, dealing with an extremely difficult situation, readily answered most questions put to it by the media to the best of its ability.

Following are the responses provided by Pacific Fleet to the latest Advertiser query. A shipyard worker said no work had been done on the 9,600-ton warship, even though it had been in drydock since Feb. 19.

Q1. Why hasn't any work been done yet on the Port Royal?

A1. That's untrue. Work has been ongoing. (No elaboration).

Q2. I previously published that the Goodyear rubber sonar dome covering might be hard to come by on short notice. Is replacement parts availability a significant issue in making repairs?

A2. No.

Q3. What major parts is the Navy waiting on, and how long will it take to get some of those?

A3. No.

Q4. How long will the repairs take on Port Royal?

A4. To be determined.

Q5. Are other scheduled ship repairs being delayed in Drydock 4, which is used for surface ship work?

A5. No.

(Questions 6 through 10 asked if any action had been taken against Capt. John Carroll, the skipper of the Port Royal who was relieved of duty, about his present duty, if the investigation is completed, and how the Port Royal strayed into 14 to 22 feet of water.)

A. The investigation is not complete, so no administrative or disciplinary actions have been decided or taken. It would be premature to speculate on these actions. Capt. Carroll was temporarily relieved of command pending the outcome of the investigation and has been temporarily assigned to a local Navy staff.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.