Category Archives: Marine

Corroded pipe caused Pierce County Sheriff’s boat to sink

It was a corroded water intake pipe that sank a Pierce County sheriff’s patrol boat docked at the Narrows Marina in Tacoma.

After an unsuccessful attempt to raise The Reliance out of the water Monday night, crews from Global Diving & Salvage Inc. were called in Tuesday morning.

They strapped multiple air bags to the 32-foot vessel and lifted it while pumping out water. The boat then was towed to shore, hoisted on a trailer and parked on the other side of the marina.

Crews discovered the cause of the problem as soon as the boat was raised from Puget Sound. Water began gushing back into the boat from a 2-inch metal pipe beneath The Reliance’s deck.

“It was kind of a battle to see how fast we could pump the water out and how fast it was coming in,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

The pipe is one of two used to cool the engine.

“It’s a part that shouldn’t have failed,” Troyer said.

Although crews do regular maintenance on the boat, officials said, the corrosion wouldn’t necessarily have been seen on the outside of the pipe.

An insurance company employee inspected the boat after it was pulled from the water. Although it’s too soon to know, it’s possible that workers can salvage the twin diesel engines, hull and other high-ticket parts.

Marine experts are expected to inspect the vessel Wednesday and salvage what they can.

It’s too early to know whether the boat will be more expensive to repair or replace, Troyer said.

“If we can salvage it, we sure will,” he said.

The Reliance is the only patrol/rescue boat deputies use on Puget Sound. Tacoma and Gig Harbor police are on call for any problems on the waterway, but the Sheriff’s Office plans to move one of its patrol boats from a county lake while the sunken boat is assessed.

A family pulling in to get gas at the marina noticed the sinking boat Monday afternoon. Within 25 minutes, all of it was underwater except an antenna mast.

The Reliance has patrolled the Puget Sound since it was commissioned in 1994. It is valued at $500,000, officials said Monday.

The county spent $260,000 to have the boat built in 1994. It has spent more than $100,000 since to put in new engines and upgrade the electronics.


Corrosion from WWII shipwrecks could threaten U.S. coast

Fuel, cargo tanks corroding

On the evening of Feb. 2, 1942, an unarmed tanker with 66,000 barrels of crude oil on board was steaming in the Atlantic, about 90 miles off Ocean City. Without warning, it was struck by German torpedoes. The attack set the W.L. Steed ablaze, and sank it; only a handful of the crew of 38 survived.

As World War II unfolded, the Germans had moved part of their sub pack west to attack shipping along the coast. By the time the Nazis withdrew the subs in July to focus on convoys crossing the North Atlantic, they had sunk 397 ships in U.S. coastal waters.

That wartime legacy has become a new environmental problem, raising concern about leaks from the W.L. Steed’s sunken fuel bunkers and cargo — and from many others like it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking an inventory of more than 30,000 coastal shipwrecks — some of them casualties of the 1942 Battle of the Atlantic — and identifying those that pose the most significant threat.

“We’re starting to see significant corrosion. Vessels that weren’t totally torpedoed didn’t break apart and may have intact fuel tanks,” NOAA’s Lisa C. Symons said.

It’s not just the ship’s own fuel bunkers, either. Many, like the W.L. Steed, sank with holds filled with crude oil, fuel oil, diesel fuel and explosives. Leaks of those products “could devastate coastal communities and coastal environments,” Symons said.

So far, the worst-threat list has been narrowed to 233 vessels, said Symons, damage assessment and resource protection coordinator for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries office in Silver Spring.

The final list will be submitted by year’s end to the Coast Guard. Once priorities are established, efforts to remove the oil from the wrecks could begin, paid through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is supported by the oil industry.

While NOAA’s risk assessments are not complete, Symons did identify five sunken ships — four within 60 miles of the coast — that could make the list as environmental threats to Maryland. They include:

  • John Morgan, a Liberty ship built in 1943 at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore. In June 1943, on its maiden voyage, it collided with another vessel off Cape Henry and sank with a cargo of fighter planes, tanks, arms and ammunition. Sixty-seven crew members and armed guards perished.
  • Marine Electric, a coal carrier out of Norfolk, Va. With 3,600 barrels of fuel oil in its bunkers, it foundered in heavy seas and sank 30 miles east of Chincoteague Inlet in February 1983. Thirty-one of the 34 crew members died in the frigid water.
  • Varanger, a Norwegian tanker. It was torpedoed on Jan. 25, 1942, while carrying 12,750 tons of fuel oil. As the crew took to lifeboats, the Germans fired three more torpedoes. The ship sank 28 miles southeast of Atlantic City, N.J., but the lifeboats were spotted and fishing boats towed them to shore.
  • India Arrow, an oil tanker. On Feb. 5, 1942, the tanker, carrying 88,369 barrels of diesel fuel, was torpedoed 20 miles southeast of Cape May, N.J. Nine officers and 29 crew abandoned ship, but only 12 survived.

Spills from wrecks are a global threat, with the highest concentration of ships lying in the western Pacific. But the U.S. coastline, too, is littered with vessels sunk by Japanese and German submarines, in collisions or storms.

NOAA is using a $1 million appropriation secured last year by Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings to inventory wrecks and identify environmental threats. Part of NOAA’s task has been to comb through ship manifests, naval records, reports of sinkings, insurance documents and survivors’ accounts to determine which ships burned and which probably went down with their fuel and cargo.

From that, the agency can work to identify those posing the greatest risk of leaking, and those offering opportunities for salvage operations to recover the oil or other cargo before it becomes a costly spill.

Some are already leaking. The most famous example is the 608-foot battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Sunk Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack, it went down with 1,177 sailors on board, and 1.1 million gallons of fuel. About half of that fuel remains on board and continues to leak into the harbor.

At a Baltimore conference last month, David L. Conlin of the National Park Service said his study of the leak found that previously intact fuel compartments are still corroding, rupturing and releasing their contents.

While Conlin’s study concluded there is “no pressing need” for “invasive” procedures to enter the ship — which is a war grave — to recover the fuel, it also suggests how long these 70-year-old wrecks may remain environmental concerns.

“Three hundred sixty years from now, in the core part of the USS Arizona, the oil bunkers here will still have significant structural integrity,” he said.

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7 senators question certifications for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program…the saga continues

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., long has been a critic of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program (LCS). In Senate hearings last December and this spring, he lambasted Navy leaders for a series of problems with the LCS and decried the pressure put on Congress late last year to permit the Navy to change course and buy both, rather than only one, of the LCS variants.

And McCain is leading a new assault on the program in a letter sent to Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer. The letter, dated Tuesday and sent on Senate letterhead, is co-signed by three Republicans and three Democrats, and asks for more information on the corrosion problem that has plagued the second LCS, the aluminum-hulled Independence.

Perhaps more significant, however, is that the letter opens up a newer area of concern and questions several Pentagon procedures that allowed the LCS program to move forward.

McCain was joined in the effort by five colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) — Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Rob Portman of Ohio, and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia — and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“It is highly unfortunate that we first learned about the discovery of significant corrosion on the Independence, and obtained your letter about your decision to waive certain certifications,” after the SASC marked up its 2012 defense bill, the senators wrote to Carter.

“Needless to say, it is absolutely vital for the committee to have in a timely fashion all information material to its deliberating the Department of Defense’s funding requests.”

The senators gave Carter until July 25 to respond to the letter, “to assist in our further deliberation of the act by the full Senate.”

The letter questions and asks for further information on several moves by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to allow the program to move ahead.

Specifically, the senators asked the following:

• Question an April 7 OSD certification to move the LCS to Milestone B, or the engineering manufacturing and development phase of the program. OSD waived several requirements of the certification — a move prompting concerns from the senators that specific reasons for the waivers were not provided.

• Ask why OSD allowed the program to use Navy acquisition cost estimates, rather than those developed by Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) group, as required by law under Title 10 of the U.S. Code. “Please provide a full explanation of the CAPE’s position, the analysis the CAPE relied on to support its position, and why you chose to use the Navy’s cost estimates rather than the CAPE’s,” the senators wrote.

• Ask for an explanation as to why OSD granted a waiver of the need to certify program tradeoffs late in the program, rather than earlier in the development of the LCS.

• Ask Carter to indicate when he “will be prepared to certify to those provisions that you recently waived,” and provide a business case analysis for the certifications and wavers.

• And ask how, in light of the corrosion problems on Independence, the LCS program “will ensure reliability and minimize major cost growth in operations and sustainment costs” in accordance with a March directive from defense under secretary Frank Kendall requiring all Pentagon programs to do so.

The senators also ask Carter to provide detailed information on the corrosion issue discovered on elements of the waterjet system on Independence. The Navy already has been fielding answers on the issue, which involves a failed alternative to more standard efforts to provide cathodic protection against corrosion and rust in underwater areas where two or more kinds of metal are used. A more conventional fix has been designed into subsequent units of the class, the Navy said, and modifications will be made to Independence to deal with the issue.

The letter also asks Carter to respond to a charge by Andrew Bellamy, chief executive of Austal — the Australian parent company of Independence builder Austal USA — that poor maintenance by the Navy, rather than faulty craftsmanship by the shipyard, is likely to be the cause of the aggressive corrosion on the ship. Bellamy also was reported as saying, according to the letter, that any corrosion on Independence would be the fault of the operator or maintainer and not the builder. The senators ask the Navy to describe how it plans to address the problem, if poor operational maintenance is “at least part of the cause.”

The letter from the seven senators comes shortly after a similar, but less detailed, missive from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. In a letter dated July 1, Hunter cited concerns about the corrosion and other problems, along with the LCS program’s oft-reported cost growth, and asked the Navy to conduct “a formal review of the entire LCS program.”

The Navy, in a response last week to Hunter, declared it was aware of the problems Hunter cited, had fixes already in hand or applied, and was satisfied that the program now is on a satisfactory track.


Galveston’s tall ship Elissa no longer seaworthy…corrosion issue

GALVESTON, Texas — The official tall ship of Texas is in trouble.

The iron and steel bottom of the three-masted 1877 Elissa is nearly rusted through in places, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard to declare that the vessel is not seaworthy.

Officials at the Texas Seaport Museum in Galveston where the Elissa is berthed were astonished when a Coast Guard inspection earlier this year revealed the rotten hull.

The tall ship is inspected twice every five years, said John Schaumburg, museum assistant director. The latest inspection uncovered the worst rot since the tall ship was rebuilt in 1982, he said.

Very little corrosion was discovered during the previous dry dock in 2008, prompting surprise that the bottom could have deteriorated so quickly, Schaumburg said.

“Everyone’s jaw just dropped,” said Ed Green, one of about 100 volunteer crew members from Houston. About half of the volunteers are from Houston, as are most of the ship’s visitors, Schaumburg said.

No one knows for sure what caused the rapid deterioration, but officials suspect that Hurricane Ike might be the culprit. Elissa rode out the September 2008 storm at a special mooring designed for violent storms, losing a sail, a spar and suffering some other minor damage.

The worst damage was unseen, Schaumburg said. Sea water eats into any metal, so 15 zinc “anodes” are fastened to the hull to draw off the corrosion. Naturally occurring electrical currents draw the corrosion to the anodes, Schaumburg explained.

Officials believe that an electric current, possibly caused by an electric line dislodged by the storm, may have caused the rapid erosion, he said.

The series of inspections were conducted at the Bollinger Texas City LP ship yard. Enough repair was done to allow the Elissa to sail back to Galveston, where it will remain until it celebrates the 30th anniversary of its reconstruction at a Greek shipyard.

By then the museum hopes to have raised $3 million to replace the hull as well as do a long overdue replacement of the fir deck and deck furniture, such as the companionway and skylight.

Schaumburg said officials won’t know until refitting begins whether the entire hull below water will need replacement or only the 54 corroded steel plates, each 4 feet by 10-12 feet. If all goes according to plan, the Elissa will be sailing again in 2012, he said.

The museum is negotiating with a professional fundraiser and has established a system that allows $10 donations to be made by texting 50555.

Green, a 7-year volunteer, said it is vital that the Elissa keep sailing.

“The Elissa is indicative of the types of ships that brought commerce to Galveston and to Texas,” Green said. “I think it’s important to keep that part of history for everyone to see it.”


Austal defends work after corrosion reports surface

Austal Ltd. defended its work in response to earlier reports of corrosion issues on the first littoral combat ship built at the company’s Mobile shipyard.

The Australia-based company’s chief executive officer, Andrew Bellamy, told the Sydney Morning-Herald that any corrosion on U.S.S. Independence was the fault of whoever is operating and maintaining it.

“We have built 230 vessels of this type that have not suffered from this type of problem … where the operator and the maintainer of the ship have followed the procedures in a thorough way,” Bellamy told the newspaper. “I suspect there is a problem in the area of operational maintenance if there is a galvanic corrosion issue.”

Bellamy told the newspaper that the issue was a “storm in a teacup” and unlikely to threaten Austral’s contract with the U.S. Navy to build more of the speedy, shallow-water combat ships.

The Navy did not immediately respond to questions today about Independence’s maintenance.

Austal on Friday confirmed media reports that Independence experienced “galvanic corrosion” in its propulsion system.

Chris Johnson, a Navy spokesman said in a written statement Sunday that the Navy blamed the corrosion issue on dissimilar metals used in the ship’s construction.

Austal specializes in aluminum-hulled ships, while the Navy has traditionally bought steel ships.

The problem was discovered in 2010, before the ship was delivered to the Navy, said Jim DeMartini, a spokesman for Maine-based Bath Iron Works. Bath is the prime contractor for the first two littoral combat ships built at Austal, Independence and Coronado, which is set for delivery in summer 2012.

Austal in December won a $3.6 billion contract to act as the prime contractor building 10 more littoral combat ships.

Johnson said that the Navy in 2010 started developing both short- and long-term fixes to the problem. The service will, by the end of July, install “doubler plates” around portions of the Independence propulsion system, which will make it safe to operate in the near future, he said.

Next year, when the ship is dry-docked, the Navy will install a cathodic protection system as a long-term fix to the corrosion problem, Johnson said.

Such an anti-corrosion system is going to be added to Coronado before it is launched, Johnson said. And Austal included the protection system in its prime contracting bid, so no changes to the design of those ships need to be made, Johnson said.

Austal is Mobile’s largest industrial employer with about 2,200 workers at its Mobile River shipyard. It expects to nearly double that number in the next few years as it ramps up construction of both littoral combat ships and high-speed transport ships for the Navy.

In a written statement issued today, Austal officials said the company is “intimately familiar” with how to properly deal with galvanic corrosion. If Austal is chosen by the Navy to provide post-delivery support for its aluminum littoral combat ships, it will be “a straight-forward process” for the company’s engineers to handle such upkeep. Austal said that it has six maintenance hubs worldwide that can handle the work.

“An integral part of any post-delivery support program for a high-performance, high-speed vessel .¤.¤. is to provide a cadre of qualified maintainers who can help our Navy partners,” the statement read in part.

Austal’s statement also said the company wants to be included in the investigation of the corrosion, but has not yet been involved in that process.


Navy Finds ‘Aggressive’ Corrosion on New Ship

The U.S. Navy has discovered “aggressive” corrosion in Austal Ltd. (ASB)’s first new combat ship designed for operating close to shore.

The corrosion is in the propulsion areas of the USS Independence, the Littoral Combat Ship built by the Mobile, Alabama-based subsidiary of Australia’s Austal and General Dynamics Corp. (GD)

“This could be a very serious setback,” said Norman Polmar, an independent naval analyst and author in Alexandria, Virginia. “If the ship develops a serious flaw, you’re not going to continue producing them.”

Permanent repair will require drydocking the ship and removing its “water jets,” a key component of the propulsion system, the Navy said in a written statement to congressional appropriations committees provided to Bloomberg News.

Aluminum-hulled ships such as Austal’s tend to rust faster than steel-hulled ships, Polmar said. “But I’m surprised it happened so early,” he said. “This ship is brand new.”

The corrosion discovery in a ship that was commissioned in January 2010 marks another blow to the Littoral Combat Ship program, planned to ultimately consist of 55 ships. In February, the Navy discovered another ship in the series, from another construction team, had a crack through the hull.

Close to Shore
The Littoral Combat ships are designed to operate closer to shore than the rest of the Navy’s surface fleet. They would make up about 17 percent of the Navy’s planned 313-ship fleet. Missions include clearing mines, hunting submarines and providing humanitarian relief.

The Navy in December awarded contracts for as many as 10 Littoral Combat ships to each of two teams of builders, led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Austal.

Austal won a $465 million contract that could reach as much as $3.78 billion if all options are exercised, the Navy announcement said. Building all 55 ships will cost the Navy at least $37.4 billion, according to a Pentagon report released in April.

Officials were concerned about the potential for corrosion during construction of the ship because of “dissimilar metals,” particularly near the steel propulsion shafts, the Navy memo said.

Temporary repairs will allow the ship to operate safely in the interim, the Navy said. The Littoral Combat Ships are designed to last about 25 years. Each ship is expected to cost about $36.6 million a year to operate and support.

Two Versions
The Navy is buying two versions from two teams of builders. The other team consists of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed and Marinette Marine Corp. of Marinette, Wisconsin.

The first Lockheed ship developed a crack as long as six inches through its hull during sea trials in February, prompting a Navy investigation of the design.

Calls to Austal and calls and e-mails to General Dynamics weren’t immediately returned.

The Austal ship is now in Mayport, Florida, undergoing additional testing, the Navy said in its statement. A permanent repair of the existing corrosion damage would be conducted next year, the Navy said. The Navy statement did not provide an estimate of the cost of the repair work.