USS Fitzgerald Headed to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula for Repairs

Damage to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) as the destroyer sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka. Picture taken July 11, 2017. U.S. Navy Photo

U.S. defense contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE:HII) announced Wednesday that its Ingalls Shipbuilding division has been selected to repair the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi when it returns to United States for repairs. 

Earlier this month the U.S. Navy issued a tender seeking a commercial semi-submersible heavy lift ship to haul the damaged destroyer back to the United States for repairs as soon as September. 

The USS Fitzgerald has been at Fleet Activities Yokosuka since it was involved in a serious collision with the merchant vessel ACX Crystal on June 17, resulting in the loss of seven sailors. The collision caused significant damage to Fitzgerald’s starboard side above the waterline and punctured a 13ft by 17ft hole below the waterline where the bulbous bow of the significantly larger containership made contact with the hull.

In a statement, Naval Sea Systems Command said the start date, scope, cost and the time required to fully restore the ship have not yet been determined.

USS Fitzgerald was launched in 1993 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine and is homeported in San Diego. 

In the tender for the transport contract, the Navy said that the furthest possible journey could be as far as Maine on the U.S. east coast, leading some to believe that the destroyer would be repaired at the shipyard where it was built.

The Navy’s decision to haul the ship to Ingalls Shipbuilding comes less than a week after Huntington Ingalls Industries agreed to pay $9.2 million to settle allegations that it knowingly overbilled the U.S. government for labor on U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships at the Pascagoula shipyard dating back to 2003. 

Regardless of destination, the Fitzgerald will have to pass through the Panama Canal making the Gulf coast shipyard a much closer destination. USS Fitzgerald is expected to arrive in the U.S. as soon as next month, although it could be as late as December.

Bath Iron Works is part of General Dynamics, a direct competitor to Huntington Ingalls Industries. Ingalls Shipbuilding and Bath Iron Works are the only two shipyards building Arleigh Burke-class destroyers for the U.S. Navy. 

“The Navy chose this course of action following a review of the capabilities and workload of new construction and repair shipyards,” Naval Sea Systems Command said in a statement. “Given the complexity of the work and the significant unknowns of the restoration, the Navy determined that only an Arleigh Burke-class shipbuilder could perform the effort. Only [Huntington Ingalls] has the available capacity to restore USS Fitzgerald to full operational status in the shortest period of time with minimal disruption to ongoing repair and new construction work.”

In the past, Ingalls Shipbuilding has repaired damaged Navy ships including the frigate USS Stark (FFG 31) and the USS Cole (DDG 67), a guided missile destroyer in the same class as Fitzgerald, after it was targetted in a terrorist bombing off the coast Yemen in October 2000. In the case of the USS Cole it was built at Ingalls Shipbuilding in 1995. 

The Navy put the cost to repair the USS Cole at about $250 million in 2002, which some experts say could easily be exceeded by the repair bill for the Fitzgerald.  

In 1988, when the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts was severely damaged by an Iranian mine, it was eventually  hauled back to Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine where it was launched just four years earlier.