Underwater Ship Husbandry Combines Navy, Civilian Divers into Successful Team

Story Number: NNS040303-02Release Date: 3/3/2004 9:44:00 AM
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By Chief Journalist Milinda D. Jensen, Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Utilizing the Sea Enterprise concept of transforming the way the Navy does business, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Office of the Director of Ocean Engineering, and Supervisor of Diving and Salvage (00C) teamed Navy divers and contract diver/welders in a rare opportunity for fleet divers to work in concert with commercial divers during an underwater ship husbandry operation (UWSH) Oct. 31-Nov. 12.

The teams pooled their expertise and talents by working side-by-side and implementing a well-engineered repair plan enabling USS Hartford (SSN 768) to return to CONUS. The Los Angeles-class submarine had suffered exterior damage caused by an accidental grounding off the coast of Italy in October.

"The U.S. Navy's Underwater Ship Husbandry program provides cost effective solutions when dry-docks are either infeasible or impractical. The success of the emergent repair to USS Hartford was greatly attributed to the team of underwater ship husbandry divers and their ability to execute a well-engineered repair plan," said Tom McCue, NAVSEA UWSH Division project manager.

Underwater cutting and welding equipment was immediately mobilized from NAVSEA's Emergency Ship Salvage Materials bases located in Livorno, Italy; Cheatham Annex, Va.; Bahrain and contract welder/diver facility in Bayou Vista, La.

Additionally, NAVSEA mobilized technical personnel from Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va. and Bayou Vista, La., to coordinate operations and assist in the repairs.

USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) divers began a detailed inspection of the damage. "The biggest engineering challenge involved determining the extent of damage. Obviously, we (the engineers) couldn't get in the water and see it for ourselves, but based on the underwater photographs, video photography and reports of the divers, we were able to determine the temporary repairs necessary to support the transit back to the U.S.," explained Steve Schulze, director, Submarine H, M&E Systems Engineering Division, NAVSEA.

Back at NAVSEA headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard, a team of more than 30 ship systems engineers gathered to evaluate the damage and develop repair requirements, to make the boat ready for a safe transit to Norfolk, where dry-dock repairs could be accomplished.

Fleet Technical Support Center Atlantic assisted Emory S. Land divers and the ship force by conducting a thorough evaluation of the steering gear and its operation. NAVSEA 00C provided on-scene technical direction and coordination of the team of 14 Navy divers and 14 contract diver/welders.

Working around the clock under intense pressure, the team of divers conducted 213 dives and more then 466 hours of bottom time, inspecting and repairing the boat in a two-week period. All work was done under the close surveillance of NAVSEA's technical director for submarines who, upon completion of the repairs, granted permission for the ship to return to CONUS with only a few operational restrictions.

"I visited USS Hartford at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard shortly after the ship was dry-docked and evaluated the repair work. In my opinion, the temporary repairs performed underwater by the divers were outstanding, and the rudder was nicely faired in with the temporary plating. It was hard to believe they could produce such high quality work in that environment," said Schulze

By incorporating better business practices, the future of underwater ship husbandry continues to benefit the fleet with cost effective and efficient ways of operating and bringing assets together as one Navy team.

For related news, visit the Naval Sea Systems Command Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/navsea.

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