The Military Sealift Command will lead the U.S. Navy’s investigation into an incident involving the hospital ship USNS Mercy resulting in damage to a floating dock attached to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
The incident occurred Wednesday morning as the USNS Mercy was being maneuvered by tugs in Pearl Harbor in preparation for the hospital ship’s departure.A statement issued late Thursday by Navy Region Hawaii provided some clarity into what had happened after conflicting reports:
“On May 27, the Hospital Ship USNS Mercy was being maneuvered by two tugboats to transit Pearl Harbor from its berth at Hotel Pier as it prepared to go to sea. As the Mercy turned to head out to the channel, the ship may have made contact with the floating dock leading to the USS Arizona Memorial. Strong prop wash from the ship pushed the floating dock and access structure (brow) approximately ten feet toward the memorial, damaging handrails and the dock’s infrastructure,” the statement said.
The incident was first reported by the website Military.com along with a photo showing the stern of the USNS Mercy just yards from the USS Arizona Memorial dock and building.
The U.S. Navy says that divers inspecting the dock and Memorial have determined that there was no damage to the remains of the USS Arizona itself. The Navy also said there was no apparent damage to the USNS Mercy, and only minor damage to the Memorial building that was described as “superficial”.
“The Navy removed the brow and immediately began repairing the above-water floating dock and access structure and evaluating the underwater mooring system of chains and concrete block anchors,” the Navy statement said.
The Military Sealift Command will lead the Navy’s investigation, the statement said.
Due to the damage, the National Park Service has suspended visitor traffic on the USS Arizona Memorial, however the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument remains open.
National Park Service Superintendent Paul DePrey said, “The National Park Service is working hard to provide visitors to Pearl Harbor with the most meaningful experience possible while the dock at the USS Arizona Memorial is being repaired.”
The Navy says in the meantime, visitors can still view the USS Arizona Memorial from harbor boats.
“Harbor boats are still leaving every 15 minutes for Battleship Row, where the battleships were moored on December 7th, 1941,”” DePrey added. “The public can view the USS Arizona from the boat. Visitors should also know that there are many other special Pearl Harbor historic sites to visit: the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Bowfin Submarine and the Battleship Missouri. Travelers should still expect to have a quality experience when they come out to Pearl Harbor.”
“We are hoping to have all repairs done by June 3 so the memorial can be reopened to visitors June 4,” said Capt. Stan Keeve, Commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“We certainly appreciate the understanding of veterans, visitors and kama‘aina,” he added. “Rest assured – we’re working closely with our partners at the National Park Service to safely reopen the USS Arizona Memorial as soon as we possibly can,” he added.
An marine casualty investigation has also been launched by the U.S. Coast Guard, as the incident involves credentialed mariners.
USNS Mercy is one of two U.S. Navy hospital ships operated by Military Sealift Command. The vessel arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on May 25 as part of its support for Pacific Partnership 2015.
The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command is the premier provider of ocean transportation to the Department of Defense. The command operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.