RIJEKA, Croatia (NNS) -- The U.S. ambassador to Croatia and the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet visited Rijeka, Croatia to commemorate the near completion of the 60-day maintenance availability for USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) in the Viktor Lenac Shipyard Nov. 9.
The visit by Ambassador James Foley and Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe also served to strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Croatia.
"Two months ago, more than 300 skilled professionals from this shipyard came aboard Mount Whitney and joined with American Sailors and civilian mariners to modernize our command ship," Pandolfe said to a group of U.S. and Croatian dignitaries gathered to commemorate the event. "I am truly impressed with the great work that the team has accomplished."
With the compressed work schedule and the limited time to prepare for the complex maintenance, a lot had to be accomplished before work could begin on the 40-year-old command ship. The extensive dry-dock work package included upgrading the ship's close-in weapons system, replacing 26 tons of steel, inspecting and cleaning 82 tanks and voids, and a complete inspection and preservation of the ship's hull.
"I think the job was performed very well and there were no problems," said Davor Luke, Viktor Lenac Shipyard board member. "We are making our best efforts to satisfy all requirements."
"I continue to be very impressed with the quality of work and professionalism by the Viktor Lenac Shipyard. I am confident that when Mount Whitney departs the shipyard, she will be in superb condition and ready to meet all of her missions," said Capt. Ted Williams, Mount Whitney commanding officer.
Viktor Lenac was selected from among several regional shipyards in a competitive bidding process and selection represents a substantial increase in the extent of services performed by a Croatian company for a U.S. military client.
"I'm very proud and pleased to say that our shipyard has been awarded such a large and complex project, based on our experience, capability, transparency, flexibility," said Robert kific, president, Viktor Lenac Shipyard. "Very specific work of renewal was carried out by qualified workers on all levels, focusing on safety, quality, and speed."
Croatia's Minister of Defense, Dr. Davor Bozinovic, said ship maintenance is an important part of the economy. "We are preparing our shipyards to do this kind of work. We want our shipyards to be more competitive in the international market," he said.
"The most important aspect of this event is not its scale, but the precedent it sets and the promise it holds for potential future visits," Foley said. "We hope that future operations and Mediterranean-basing of U.S. ships will provide regular opportunities for Croatian shipyards to bid for similar contracts."
Pandolfe said he looks forward to working closely with his Croatian counterparts in the future.
"This joint effort represents a mutual success for Croatia and the United States," Pandolfe said. "It illustrates our growing efforts together at sea and ashore; teamwork that we will expand in the future."
Mount Whitney is jointly operated by the U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command as a command ship that provides command and control for fleet commanders and serves as the flagship for U.S. 6th Fleet. The ship provides the capacity for a joint staff to plan a full range of U.S. military options.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.