Question: What is the status of the state of Hawaii’s claim against the Navy for damage to the reef caused by the Pearl Harbor-based $1 billion USS Port Royal when it ran aground near Honolulu Airport last year?
Answer: Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, says "the state is preparing its claim. This is not a simple task. The department still intends to move forward with its claim."
Although repairs on the Port Royal were completed in September, the Navy said the 9,600-ton cruiser and its crew of 300 sailors should be certified to return to sea duty this fall.
The Navy spent $7 million last year reattaching nearly 5,400 coral colonies and righting eight boulders in the ocean a half-mile off the reef runway of Honolulu Airport. Contractors also removed 250 cubic yards of rubble the grounding created.
The warship ran aground Feb. 5, 2009, in 14 to 22 feet of water. Nine tugboats and ships pulled the ship off the reef on the fourth attempt Feb. 9. The warship was transferring crew members to a smaller boat when the grounding occurred after its first day back at sea after a four-month, $18 million overhaul.
Because the state threatened legal action, the Navy has never said what caused the grounding, although there were reports that the ship’s navigational equipment was broken.
The Navy spent $40 million to repair the cruiser, which was in Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard’s dry dock 4 for seven months before returning to the fleet Sept. 24.
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 under the bow was the most heavily damaged part of the vessel. Four sections of shafting also were replaced, struts that support the propulsion shafts were realigned and the underwater hull was repainted blue.
Capt. John Carroll was relieved of command and assigned a desk job. He received nonjudicial punishment for dereliction of duty and improper hazarding of a vessel. Three other officers and a sailor received nonjudicial punishment in the grounding. Capt. John T. Lauer III was named on Feb. 11, 2009, to replace Carroll.
This update was written by Gregg Kakesako. You can write to us at What Ever Happened to …, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.